Penguins: Fedotenko, Goligoski score late in third period to set up Crosby's winning goal
From left, Sidney Crosby, Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang celebrate Goligoski's tying goal against the Blue Jackets late in the third period last night in Columbus, Ohio.
Sidney Crosby scores the winning goal against the Blue Jackets' Steve Mason in a shootout last night in Columbus, Ohio.
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Penguins knew they were down two goals.
Realized there were only about three minutes left in regulation, too.
And that they were playing on the road, before a mostly hostile crowd.
They just did not seem to grasp what all of that meant: That they were supposed to lose.
And so, they did not.
First, Ruslan Fedotenko and Alex Goligoski scored 39 seconds apart late in the third period to force overtime, which segued into a shootout.
Which led to a Sidney Crosby score, and a 4-3 victory against Columbus at Nationwide Arena last night.
"That's why you play 60 minutes," Goligoski said. "Even if there's only 20 seconds left, you might as well try to score two goals."
That should be a lot tougher these days with Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar spending game nights in street clothes, even if it did not look that way last night.
• Game: Penguins vs. Minnesota Wild, 7:38 p.m.
• Where: Mellon Arena.
• TV: FSN Pittsburgh.
"They can get back as soon as they want," Crosby said. "We need them, but we have to find ways [to win] until they're healthy."
Getting the kind of goaltending Brent Johnson provided is part of that formula. He was excellent for 65 minutes, then flawless in the shootout, turning aside Antoine Vermette, Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius.
"He battles," coach Dan Bylsma said. "He scratches and claws. He seems to find a way to give the team a chance."
Johnson's Columbus counterpart, Steve Mason, denied Kris Letang in the first round of the shootout, but could not stop Crosby in the second. And Johnson saw to it that Chris Kunitz never was called upon to shoot in the third.
Which was unfortunate, on some levels, because Kunitz had scored the Penguins' first goal, converting a short-handed setup by Crosby at 11:55 of the second period. It was his second goal in two games after failing to score in the first 11 this season.
"You try to put them on the net and didn't get your bounces the first couple of games, but now it's finding its way in," Kunitz said.
Why he was speaking in the second person was not clear; why Bylsma was ready to use him in the shootout was easy to understand, however, because Kunitz had another strong game.
The Blue Jackets' loss took much of the luster off a quality performance by Nash, who scored their first two goals and accounted for seven of the 32 shots Columbus threw at Johnson during regulation and overtime.
Nash gave Columbus a 1-0 lead during a power play at 18:13 of the opening period, when he beat Johnson while on his knees in front of the crease, and made it 2-0 with a long-side shot from a harsh angle at 5:37 of the second.
"He's an all-star player in this league," Goligoski said. "He's someone you have to worry about there. He can make something happen every time he's on the ice."
So can Crosby, of course, and it's not out of the question that the two of them will be linemates for Canada at the Olympics this winter.
Crosby is not ready to publicly claim a spot on Team Canada, let alone assume that he will be playing alongside Nash, but acknowledged that he finds the possibility intriguing.
"He's a great player, all over the ice," Crosby said. "He's got tons of speed, he's smart, he's big, he's hard to knock off the puck.
"If I end up [in the Games], great. If I end up with him, it'd be pretty awesome."
Thanks to Nash's goals and one by Derek Dorsett at 17:50 of the second, Columbus probably felt that way after two periods. But that all changed when the Penguins salvaged a couple of points with their late surge.
"It shows good character in the locker room," Kunitz said. "But it's something we don't want to have to rely on.
"We don't want to fall behind. Late in the season, if you need those points, it's tough to come back."
Of course, if the Penguins, who are 11-2, keep up their current pace -- or anything remotely resembling it -- they might have all the points they will need before Crosby and Nash skate a shift together.
First Published October 31, 2009 12:01 am