Kennedy's goal gives Penguins 3-2 win against Avalanche


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DENVER -- Tyler Kennedy didn't stop to consider his options.

Didn't think about what he should do when the puck reached him.

He just reacted.

And ended the game.

Kennedy drove a shot past Colorado goalie Peter Budaj during a power play with 49.2 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 3-2 victory against the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center last night.

The goal was Kennedy's 12th, the most of anyone in the Penguins' lineup these days, and might be his most important of the season, because it ended a two-game losing streak and gave the Penguins their second victory in the past six games.

Kennedy was positioned at the bottom of the left circle when an Alex Goligoski rebound came directly at him. The instant it arrived, Kennedy sent it back in the direction from which it had come.

"It came so fast," Kennedy said. "I just tried to put it on net, and it went in."

His goal raised the Penguins' record to 36-19-4 and kept them within five points of Philadelphia, which leads the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

And while the Penguins figure to be a long shot to overtake the Flyers, who also have two games in hand on them, they aren't ready to concede anything.

"We want to keep winning," center Jordan Staal said. "We want to keep getting points and keep getting better."

The victory ended the Penguins' five-game losing streak in Denver. Their most recent victory here had been Feb. 25, 1999, when the Avalanche still played at McNichols Arena.

Winger Beau Bennett, the Penguins' No. 1 draft choice in 2010 and a freshman at Denver University, watched the game with general manager Ray Shero and other team officials.

The power play that led to Kennedy's winner came about when Colorado center Kevin Porter was sent off for tripping Zbynek Michalek at 3:34 of overtime.

Although officials sometimes overlook infractions late in regulation or in overtime, Porter clearly took Michalek's skates out from under him.

"It was pretty blatant," Staal said. "To me, it looked pretty obvious."

New York Rangers coach John Tortorella had altered the course of a game at Madison Square Garden Sunday with a well-placed timeout -- he called it when the Penguins took a 2-0 lead, and the Rangers scored the next five goals en route to a 5-3 victory -- and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma got pretty good mileage out of one Wednesday night.

The Avalanche was beginning to carry the play during the second half of the opening period when Bylsma called his timeout at 16:44, primarily because of concerns about how the altitude was affecting his players. Forty-three seconds later, the Penguins got the first goal of the game.

Joe Vitale scored it at 17:27, as he broke down the slot, took a feed from Brett Sterling and stuck a shot over Budaj's right shoulder for his first goal in the NHL.

Chris Stewart pulled Colorado even at 3:24 of the second, when he took a cross-ice feed from David Jones and beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the right side of the crease.

Cameron Gaunce put Colorado in front with his first NHL goal at 14:19, throwing a wrist shot from the right point that eluded Fleury, who was screened by several players.

"That's frustrating, because it wasn't a hard shot," Fleury said. "But, when you can't see something, it's tough to stop it."

If Gaunce's goal staggered the Penguins, though, it didn't show. Just 32 seconds later, they countered when Staal whipped a wrist shot past Budaj from inside the right circle to cap a two-on-one break with Sterling for his sixth of the season.


Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com .


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