VANCOUVER – If the Vancouver Canucks can score two goals in 17 seconds, the Penguins can respond with two goals in 16 seconds.
That’s how it rolled Tuesday night at Rogers Arena.
After that exchange in the third period, Sidney Crosby was the only player to score in a shootout for a 5-4 Penguins win.
“Memorable game,” said the Penguins’ Dan Bylsma, who improved his coaching record to 233-105-26, passing Eddie Johnston for most wins by a Penguins coach.
It was very nearly memorable for the wrong reasons.
Vancouver winger Chris Higgins scored at 13:07 of the third period and winger Zack Kassian at 13:24 for a 4-2 lead. It was the Canucks' fourth unanswered goal and made a 2-0 Penguins lead built in the first 26 minutes of the game a distant memory.
“That hurt,” Crosby said. “That was tough, to give them that much momentum late in the game like that.
“We found a way.”
Kris Letang, who had come up empty on several earlier chances, pulled the Penguins to within 4-3 with 1:11 left in regulation with a shot from the center point that Vancouver goaltender Eddie Lack didn’t react well on. It came off of a faceoff play after the Penguins had pulled goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Crosby followed with a tying goal with 54.2 seconds remaining. Stationed near the left post, he kicked the puck from his skate to his stick and punched the puck behind Lack to set up overtime.
This was the first time Crosby played in this building since he scored in overtime at the 2010 Olympics to deliver the gold medal to Canada. And his tying goal and shootout-deciding goal came on the day he was officially named to the 2014 Olympic team for the Sochi Games next month.
“It’s hard not to think about it when you’re out there,” Crosby said.
Letang, who had six shots, wiped away some frustration by scoring late after playing so well.
“All the guys said there’s always a next shot,” Letang said. “It ended up being an important one in the end. All game, I was involved and I was creating things. It felt pretty good.”
Four of the past eight games between these teams have gone to a shootout, with the Penguins winning all four.
The game was the first on a Western Canada swing. The trip continues Friday at Edmonton before concluding Saturday at Calgary.
The Penguins have won 12 of their past 14 games and 17 of their past 20. They are 3-2 in their past five road games.
The first period was up-tempo, and the Penguins had the better of the play for most of the period.
Rookie Brian Gibbons gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead with his second career goal at 13:15. He stole the puck in his own end, raced down the ice, skated through an attempted check by Vancouver winger Jannik Hansen and slid a forehanded shot under Lack.
During the Penguins’ only power play of the first period – made possible when Vancouver defenseman Jason Garrison held Letang at 15:45 after Evgeni Malkin sprung Letang – Crosby got hit in the leg with a shot by Malkin.
He left the game briefly.
“It’s fine,” Crosby said. “It was just a stinger. I didn’t really see it coming until it hit me.”
Malkin gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead at 5:25 of the second period. He was falling near the right hash marks, and it didn’t appear that he was going to get off a shot. He did, but it wasn’t a rocket. Lack seemingly relaxed and wasn’t anticipating the shot, which scooted past in and inside the near post.
Garrison scored on something of a gift to make it 2-1 at 15:35 of the second period.
Crosby stepped out of a crowd in the right corner with the puck and sent a backhand pass into the slot for Gibbons, who recently has been playing on the right wing on the top line with Pascal Dupuis out of the lineup because of a knee injury.
The puck skipped past Gibbons to Garrison in the high slot. From there, he beat Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on the blocker side.
It was Garrison’s 100th NHL point.
“I just started taking one step the wrong direction down to the middle, and the puck went to the other side,” Gibbons said. “It was just one of those plays where we didn’t connect, but it was close.”
Vancouver tied it, 2-2, at 7:39 of the third period. After the Canucks controlled the puck in the Penguins’ zone for several seconds, Christopher Tanev let loose with a shot from the left point and into a crowd in front of Fleury. The puck hit the skate of Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta and deflected in.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published January 8, 2014 1:01 AM