Letang wins it again
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- By far the focus of the Penguins' three-game trip through Western Canada -- at least for those in the cities they visited -- was Sidney Crosby.
So what better scenario than to have Crosby awarded a penalty shot in overtime on the final stop of the tour?
That's what happened last night at GM Place, but Crosby couldn't quite beat Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Instead, rookie defenseman Kris Letang scored the winning shootout goal for the second game in a row to give the Penguins a 2-1 win last night against the Vancouver Canucks in front of a "Hockey Night in Canada" television audience.
Letang was the 12th shooter. He slid the puck under Luongo for the winner.
His shootout goal Thursday gave the Penguins a 3-2 win in Calgary.
The win gave the road-tested Penguins a sweep of their three road games against the Northwest Division and their first four-game winning streak of the season. They raised their record to 15-12-2, the first time they have been three games over .500 this season, and moved them two points behind first-place New Jersey in the Atlantic Division.
The streak left them at 8-6 on the road going into the final game of this trip Tuesday at Philadelphia. Their three wins in the Northwest Division puts them at 7-1 against the Western Conference.
The Penguins skated toe to toe with Vancouver, which entered the game leading its division, in a game in which the goaltenders stood tall.
Like an extended shootout, friends and former teammates Dany Sabourin of the Penguins and Luongo traded save after save. Sabourin spent last season as the backup to Luongo in Vancouver before re-signing with the Penguins in the summer.
Sabourin started in place of Marc-Andre Fleury, who missed the game because of a sprained ankle. He replaced Fleury at 4:39 of the first period Thursday in Calgary and picked up the win as the Penguins won in a shootout. That and the game last night boosted his record to 6-4-1.
Crosby had nine points (three goals, six assists) over his previous six games and his three third-period assists helped the Penguins come back Wednesday to beat Edmonton, 4-2, but he was held without a point in the past two games. It was the first time Crosby has been held without a point in consecutive games this season.
He was stopped by Luongo, who made 35 saves, not only as the sixth shooter of the shootout but also on a penalty shot in overtime.
In overtime, he chased down a loose puck in his own end and bore down on Luongo on a breakaway but was pulled down by Vancouver defenseman Aaron Miller, who barely caught up with Crosby.
On the penalty shot attempt, Crosby held the puck for what seemed like minutes, finally pulling it to the left edge of the crease and shooting. Luongo sprawled to make the save.
The Penguins had come back to win their previous two games after trailing going into the third period. Vancouver had 13 wins when leading after two periods.
Those statistics were thrown out the window in this game.
The Penguins squandered a golden chance early.
Vancouver's Willie Mitchell, who with defense partner Sami Salo was on the ice against Crosby's line much of the time, caught Crosby in the face with his stick blade toward the end of the game's first shift.
Mitchell drew a double-minor penalty for high sticking, but the Penguins had just two scoring chances during the extended power play -- a shot into Luongo's right leg pad by Erik Christensen and a shot by Ryan Whitney that missed an open, upper-right corner of the net -- as the Canucks penalty-killers made it difficult for them to set up.
The teams traded power plays for much of the opening period. The Penguins failed to score on three chances totaling 4:55, the Canucks on three chances over 4:56.
Winger Petr Sykora had what could have been the first goal on his stick at 13:18 of the first period. Evgeni Malkin, under pressure behind the Vancouver net, got enough of a poke at the puck to send it trickling out to Sykora in the slot. He teed up, but Luongo got his blocker on it.
Malkin and Sykora got a chance they made count later in the first period.
Those two and Georges Laraque played give-and-give-and-go down the left side of the ice, with Malkin eventually sending a pass through the slot to Sykora. From the same place as his earlier chance, Sykora softly redirected the puck past Luongo's right shoulder to make it 1-0 at 18:19.
Sykora hadn't scored since Nov. 21, a span of eight games.
Center Ryan Kesler, whose line was matched against Crosby's, tied the score at 3:40 of the third period.
Flying, he carried the puck through traffic down the left side, cut across to his right and clanged the puck in off the post and behind Sabourin, who finished with 31 saves, to make it 1-1.
That's how it stayed into the shootout.
First Published December 9, 2007 1:36 am