The question of why Kris Letang's sweater wasn't tied down when he fought New Jersey's Travis Zajac this past Friday has been answered.
And it turns out there wasn't much of a mystery about it, after all.
Letang did not have his sweater tied down -- a violation of Rule 47.13, which mandates an automatic game misconduct penalty for offenders -- when the scuffle began because, well, that's something he never did.
Not until the Penguins' 3-2 overtime victory in Boston Saturday night, anyway.
"I just didn't do it," Letang said. "I never have. Usually, the referee doesn't say anything ... unless the jersey would have gone over my head during the fight, then it would have been an advantage, but it just went over when I was going down on the ice."
Zajac pulled Letang's sweater over his head as their fight progressed. It is not known if he was aware before they squared off that Letang did not, as a matter of course, tie down.
The rule was instituted to prevent fighters from shedding their jerseys so that they would be less restrained while throwing punches. That probably wasn't what Letang had in mind, but it is not a mistake he plans to repeat.
"It's tied down inside my pants now," he said.
It has been more than two months since Sidney Crosby played in a game, and a lot of objectives that seemed attainable before he got his concussion -- a second NHL scoring championship, a serious run at another league MVP award -- are all but out of reach.
It says a lot about the season Crosby was having, though, that even after missing 26 games, he still holds fairly prominent spots on a number of league-wide statistical lists.
Going into Sunday's games, Crosby ranked:
• Eighth in points (66).
• Fifth in goals (32).
• Fifth in power-play goals (tied, 10).
And perhaps the most remarkable statistic of all: Even after sitting out more than a quarter of the season, Crosby has taken a higher percentage of his team's faceoffs -- 40.1, to be precise -- than anyone else in the league.
Indeed, the guy who ranks second, Tomas Plekanec of Montreal, isn't even close at 36.5 percent, despite dressing for 65 of the Canadiens' 66 games.
The Penguins are the most-penalized team in the NHL, averaging 18.1 minutes per game.
They have been short-handed 270 times, which also leads the league.
And even though their penalty-killing remains the NHL's most efficient, with a success rate of 86.7 percent, being down a man so often can cause problems. It makes it tough to get into a rhythm of rolling lines, disrupts momentum and keeps productive players who don't happen to kill penalties on the bench.
The Penguins' penchant for taking penalties has been an issue throughout the season, and coach Dan Bylsma brought it up again a few hours before their game at New Jersey Friday.
"We have to focus on doing a better job of staying out of the penalty box, keeping from testing our penalty-kill too much," he said.
"A lot of cases, offensive-zone penalties have hurt us. On the forecheck, we've gotten a number of undisciplined, chase-them-behind-the-net type of penalties. We can't rely on our penalty-kill."
While it's too soon to draw any conclusions, Bylsma's message just might have gotten through.
The Penguins played two combative games this past weekend and were short-handed just one time in each.
The Penguins haven't won a game in regulation since Feb. 4, when they earned a 3-2 decision against Buffalo at Consol Energy Center.
Coincidentally enough, the Sabres will be back there Tuesday night.
But the Penguins will have a chance at something even more rare than a 60-minute victory has become for them: They will have an opportunity to sweep the season series for just the second time since Buffalo entered the NHL.
The Penguins have won the first three games against the Sabres and will be trying to match the 4-0 mark they put up in 2007-08. They came within a goal of outdoing that in 1976-77, when they beat Buffalo four times and tied the Sabres once.
Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published March 7, 2011 5:00 AM