Pittsburgh Penguins outlast Columbus Blue Jackets in shootout

By Shelly Anderson, The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 22, 2017 at 12:25 AM
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PITTSBURGH -- Patience is something that was in scant supply for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions who thought they should be playing better and winning more.

But patience is exactly what got them what they craved.

In a game in which emotions bubbled over at times, defenseman Kris Letang used patience to beat Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for the deciding shootout goal Thursday night in a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena.

Letang, Pittsburgh's fourth shooter, sought the advice of teammate Sidney Crosby, who was the Penguins' second shooter and got stopped.

"I was trying to take Sid's input. He's a guy that reads the goalies really well," Letang said. "He told me that (Bobrovsky) was really patient. So I threw a couple moves at him, and he didn't move.

"I knew if I kept dragging the puck further, he would be deeper, so I would have the shot."

Letang notched his 13th career game-deciding goal and extended his NHL record for defensemen with his his 24th shootout goal overall.

He lifted the puck past Bobrovsky and lifted the Penguins (18-15-3) to a win that came after a stretch of five losses in seven games. It was the opening of a three-game homestand and the first contest in a stretch of six out of eight within the Metropolitan Division.

"Those are huge points, to get that extra point, especially the way the game went," said Crosby, who helped Letang learn from his mistake.

"Just got in a little too tight," Crosby said of his shootout attempt. "You've got to give yourself some room to elevate it, like (Letang) did. (Letang) did a great job of selling the move, but then putting it up top."

Goals from Columbus' Pierre-Luc Dubois in the second period and Pittsburgh's Patric Hornqvist in the third forged a 1-1 tie. The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin and the Blue Jackets' Artemi Panarin exchanged power-play goals later in the third to tie it again 2-2.

Columbus (21-13-2) lost for the fourth time in six games and could not build on a win a night earlier against Toronto.

"It was a weird game," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. "Just the way it kind of played out and the emotion. Obviously, we knew it was going to be there. There was going to be tight checking.

"We're coming off a back-to-back and we needed to make sure we were smart. Did a lot of good things. That's a good team that was waiting for us and it could've gone either way tonight."

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray made 30 saves through regulation and overtime. He had lost two of three since returning from a lower-body injury.

Bobrovsky stopped 39 shots going into the shootout as he dropped to 1-3-1 in his past five games.

The Blue Jackets broke through at 7:09 of the second. Dubois, from the right circle, lofted a shot under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead.

In the first meeting of the season in what has developed into a strong rivalry, frustration piqued for Penguins star centers Malkin and Crosby, who each got involved in scuffles in the final 30 seconds of the second.

Malkin and Foligno got into a scrap in the Blue Jackets' slot with 28.1 seconds left in the second and got fighting majors. Things bubbled over further at the buzzer, when Crosby took on Seth Jones in the same area, with both picking up double roughing minors.

The second scrap was precipitated by Blue Jackets center Boone Jenner going after Penguins winger Jake Guentzel, with Jenner getting not only a cross-checking major but also a game misconduct. Letang also got a roughing minor for going after Jenner.

"The way they play, they're intense guys," Letang said of the Blue Jackets. "They go to the net. They play, I wouldn't say a dirty game, but, like, a hard game. They're not afraid of a scrum. When you have a team that brings that game, you have to match it and go after it. That always makes it a pretty good game."

That all resulted in four-on-four play for the opening two minutes of the third, followed by a three-minute Pittsburgh power play.

The Penguins used that man-advantage to tie it 1-1 when Hornqvist redirected a Phil Kessel shot under Bobrovsky's glove at 2:25.

"We knew we were going to get a big push from them. We have to try and kill a long penalty there to start the third period," Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson said.

Malkin gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead at 15:03 of the third when he batted a Crosby rebound past Bobrovsky, but Panarin knotted it again at 16:14 when he scored through a screen.

Columbus returns to PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday.

NOTES: Columbus D Zach Werenski (upper body) missed his second consecutive game. ... Pittsburgh RW Patric Hornqvist returned after missing one game because of a lower-body injury. ... D Jamie Oleksiak made his Penguins debut, on his 25th birthday, after being acquired from Dallas on Tuesday, leaving D Ian Cole a healthy scratch. ... Pittsburgh D Matt Hunwick played his 500th NHL game.

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