Kovalev lifts Penguins in shootout
By Rob Rossi, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, February 27, 2011
TORONTO — The number on the back of the jersey is different.
However, on Saturday night the Penguins saw some of that same old special stuff from the new/old guy with their crest once again on his chest.
Alex Kovalev's 150th goal as a Penguin — and first in eight years — started their unexpected scoring binge, and his Round 2 shootout goal lifted his club past the Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-5, at Air Canada Centre.
"He gave a little speech after we won," Penguins forward Max Talbot said of Kovalev, who was acquired Thursday from the Ottawa Senators to help provide some offensive punch to an injury-depleted squad that had scored only 26 goals in February before this win.
"He said he was happy to be here, and it's important for him to see this team have success."
Kovalev, who often starred for the Penguins from 1998-2003, said this win, which featured the Penguins giving way a third-period lead before pulling even, didn't show him anything about this team.
"I've seen this team, playing against them, and I know what they're like, how they compete," he said. "I'm just trying to do the same thing."
The Penguins (37-21-6, 80 points) maintain a four-point lead on the Washington Capitals for the fourth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and home-ice advantage in at least Round 1 of the playoffs.
This victory, only their third in the past 11 games, bailed out goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who surrendered five goals on 31 shots after being pulled Friday night from a loss at Carolina following three goals allowed on 11 shots.
"We played their style a little bit, and we gave up some goals because we gave them great chances," forward Mike Rupp said.
Added Talbot, whose short-handed goal — and first against a goalie since Nov. 29 — preceded Rupp's tying marker near the midpoint of the third period: "We needed to win this one for 'Flower.' He's been winning us some games. I talked to him after the game and he said, 'Hey, thanks for scoring some goals.' We owed him."
Coach Dan Bylsma won't practice the Penguins today, and his top defenseman certainly is owed a measure of rest and relaxation.
Kris Letang, with a look-at-me showing for his first Norris Trophy nomination in this hockey-mad city, played 32 minutes and 47 seconds — including 24:25 at even strength. He attempted nine shots. (freaking unreal....considering he had about the same amount of ice time the night before)
Center Mark Letestu, playing for the first time in exactly a month, registered seven shots. He also scored his 11th goal in the second period to tie the score, 2-2, with four minutes remaining.
With 16 seconds before the intermission, forward Dustin Jeffrey — playing in a second straight game after missing five in a row — pushed the Penguins ahead.
The Maple Leafs (27-27-8, 62 points), needing every possible point to qualify for the playoffs, responded with a sense of desperation in the third period. Goals from wingers Clark MacArthur and Joffrey Lupul — his second of the game — in the opening 3:27 pulled them even and pushed them ahead, 4-3.
A bench penalty for too many men left the Penguins short-handed, and Talbot scored — but Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf capitalized on the same power play to give them control.
That lasted all of about 90 seconds, as Rupp's first goal in 13 games set up a frenzied finish and displayed the no-quit attitude his team has adopted despite playing most of this calendar year without superstar centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
With Kovalev, Letestu and Jeffrey back, and lineup staples such as defenseman Paul Martin and left wing Chris Kunitz perhaps soon to return, maybe the darkest days are behind the Penguins.
"Well, we got it (last night)," coach Dan Bylsma said, "and we got it from different people who've been inserted into our lineup.
"We'll take it."
Read more: Kovalev lifts Penguins in shootout - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...#ixzz1F8PaDtaq