Kunitz rallies Penguins to win in shootout

Steve Sullivan picks up his first goal as a Penguin


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LOS ANGELES -- There's a reason certain players have a go-to move in a shootout situation. Just ask Chris Kunitz.

The Penguins winger could box and sell his approach -- make some moves, pull the goaltender out of position and slip the puck under him. He used it Saturday night on Jonathan Quick and won the game, 3-2, at Staples Center.

"You try to make a move, see if he flinches, opens up his legs. You find a spot, and it went through," said Kunitz, who was the eighth shooter in the shootout.

Kunitz also lifted a backhander over Quick from just beyond the left goal post to pull the Penguins into a 2-2 tie with 2:57 left in regulation.

The Penguins had squandered a 1-0 lead that came courtesy of winger Steve Sullivan's first goal with the club.

The win gave them a 1-0-1 showing on their West Coast swing, which began with a 4-3 shootout loss Thursday at San Jose.

"It's been a good road trip for us," Sullivan said. "Three out of [a possible] four points against these two good hockey clubs is a really good thing for us."

The Penguins lead the NHL with 21 points.

They are 4-0-2 against teams from the Western Conference this season, 8-0-4 in their past 12 games against the West. Their next game, Friday at home, is against Dallas, also in the West.

Penguins center Jordan Staal returned after missing the previous two games because of a leg injury.

However, they played without defenseman Matt Niskanen, who is day-to-day with what is believed to be a knee injury he suffered against San Jose.

That and the broken wrist sustained by defenseman Ben Lovejoy in the San Jose game allowed Alexandre Picard to make his Penguins debut and Robert Bortuzzo to make his NHL debut.

Bortuzzo might have gained a bit of quick notoriety among Penguins fans when he got his arm up high on Kings center Mike Richards, former captain of the rival Philadelphia Flyers. Bortuzzo got a roughing penalty for that at 7:54 of the second period.

With the game scoreless, Kings winger Ethan Moreau received a boarding minor penalty and might receive some attention from the disciplinary arm of the NHL for a hit on Kunitz at 8:27 of the first period.

Kunitz was facing the boards looking down at the puck near the right point of the Los Angeles end when Moreau hit him from behind and into the boards. Kunitz was a little slow getting up but he not only stayed in the game but also remained out for the ensuing power play.

"I was catching the puck," Kunitz said. "I had my hands down. Usually, I have my hands up. I think he just pushed me a little high. I didn't get hurt or anything. You just catch your breath and get back out."

After the Penguins successfully killed a tripping penalty to winger James Neal in the first period with the game scoreless, they got an extended amount of power-play time as the Kings took a series of penalties.

Defenseman Willie Mitchell got a slashing minor at 15:04 of the first period as he broke his stick trying to thwart Penguins center Evgeni Malkin on a breakaway. Malkin then drew another slashing penalty at 16:34, this one to Moreau.

Finally, former Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi threw the puck over the glass in his defensive zone for a delay penalty at 16:38.

With a long five-on-three opportunity, the Penguins cashed in on Sullivan's goal at 18:45.

Kris Letang, near the left dot, fed Sullivan, who scored on a severe angle from behind the extended goal line. His shot found a slit above goaltender Jonathan Quick's stick and inside the near post to make it 1-0 for a five-on-three goal at 18:45 of the first period.

"It feels great. It's good to get that out of the way," said Sullivan, who had not scored in 26 games, dating to Dec. 8, 2010, when he was with Nashville.

"Hopefully, I can keep making a contribution in the scoring column."

Kris Letang and James Neal got the assists, extending their scoring streaks to four games each.

The Kings got their own five-on-three chance, for 1:18 early, in the second period, but didn't score.

Los Angeles tied it, 1-1, at 13:34 of the second period after a giveaway by Penguins center Richard Park.

Kings defenseman Matt Greene picked off Park's pass and deflected the puck out of his defensive zone and ahead to winger Justin Williams, who fed Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar for a short breakaway. Kopitar lifted a backhand shot over the glove of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

That ended a scoring drought at home of 158:32 for the Kings, who had had been shut out in their previous two games at Staples Center.

Richards missed the net on a penalty shot at 10:30 after he was tripped by Letang on a breakaway. Letang just missed batting the puck away.

"I was waiting for an opportunity, but he did a good job blocking me, making sure I couldn't really get to the puck," Letang said.

Simon Gagne made it 2-1 for Los Angeles 3:19 later. Kopitar pulled Fleury out of his net, then fed Gagne at the right corner of the crease. Gagne had an open net behind Fleury.

In the shootout, Kopitar and Letang, the second shooter for each team scored.

"Injuries, a lot of different things, playing tough games on the West Coast against good teams -- to be able to scratch out three points, we're real pleased with that," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.


For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com , 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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