Penguins beat Coyotes, 4-3, in shootout
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma made a statement -- and was looking for one -- when he came back with Marc-Andre Fleury as his starting goaltender for the second night in row.
Instead, by the end of a 4-3 shootout win against the Phoenix Coyotes Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena, the Penguins' goaltending situation seemed as murky as ever.
Bylsma yanked Fleury, the franchise goaltender, after he gave up two goals on five shots in less than seven minutes and replaced him with Brent Johnson, the club's backup who has been the better of the two through the first month of the season.
Mark Letestu, the sixth shooter in the shootout after the first five were blanked, scored on a wrist shot on his first career shootout attempt to win it for the Penguins, who erased a two-goal and a one-goal deficit to force overtime. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz, on a power play, scored for the Penguins.
That left them relieved and upbeat after the game, which made them 1-2 on a three-games-in-a-four-night trip to the west.
All except one, that is. Fleury was downcast and declined to speak with reporters.
The game ended a two-game losing streak and came a night after the Penguins came away from a 3-2 loss at Anaheim feeling as though they played a solid game, although Fleury took the loss to fall to 1-6, his only win coming Oct. 21 at Nashville.
Before the game, in explaining why he was giving Fleury the start again, Bylsma essentially issued a challenge.
"Marc's the guy who's got to go in there and play big for us," Bylsma said. "It was a game [Friday] where we liked a lot of what we did and liked the urgency, desperation and getting to our game, but we've got to rebound. We're going with Marc to get that response in goal for us."
After the game, Bylsma sounded much the same.
"Obviously not a good result or what you want from your starting goaltender," he said. "I felt like the best thing at that point in time for our team was to switch it up and get [Johnson] in there. Marc has been a big-time goaltender and has got to be a big-time goaltender. He's got to find that.
"But in this situation, we needed [Johnson] to go in and make some saves and give us a chance to get our feet underneath us and get back in the game, which he did."
Johnson stopped 22 shots through regulation and overtime and all three Phoenix shooters in the shootout to improve to 6-1-1.
"[Fleury] and I will talk after the game," Johnson said. "That's between him and I. I don't really want to speak about what happened in the game."
Johnson was willing to talk about the shootout. He said Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who spent the past five seasons with the Coyotes, tipped him off about Radim Vrbata (always goes to the backhand) and Wojtek Wolski. The third Coyotes shooter, Lauri Korpikoski, missed the net.
Crosby and Kris Letang were stopped by Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov before Letestu won it.
"I'd say we needed this one," Letestu said of the win. "It was kind of a tough trip. It's going to be nice to go home with two points."
Bylsma chose Letestu after seeing him do well in shootouts in the American Hockey League and in practices.
"I was pretty happy Dan called my number and I got a chance to win the hockey game," Letestu said. ""I knew what I was doing the second I was in the shootout."
Both teams were playing a third game in four nights, and Phoenix was playing without winger and captain Shane Doan, who got hurt Friday night, and top defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who had the flu.
The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead at 2:36 of the first on a goal by Eric Belanger and were awarded a 2-0 lead after a video review allowed a goal by Vrbata at 6:56 even though he pushed the net off of its moorings just as the puck went in under Fleury after he was tripped by the Penguins' Deryk Engelland.
That was it for Fleury, who got some sympathy from his teammates.
"It's tough, but he's strong mentally," Crosby said. "He's going to get through it. We're all here for him."