PIC OF THE GAME
(click for full view)
- In head-to-head action Canucks keeper Roberto Luongo
was the brighter star Saturday night in Vancouver, but it was Sidney Crosby’s Penguins who left with the prize. Despite a 31-save effort that was arguably his best of the year and included a stop on a Crosby penalty shot in overtime, Luongo couldn’t hold the high-powered Penguin offense off the score sheet forever.
Defenseman Kris Letang scored his second straight shootout winner in the sixth round, lifting the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 win over the Canucks.
"I had the chance to make the team win, so like last game I put the move in my head and just made it," Letang said. "Just like Calgary, I had confidence. It's not more confidence, I just had to do it again."
Letang, who beat Miikka Kiprusoff in the shootout to seal a win in Calgary on Thursday, made a strong forehand deke to tuck the winner around a sprawled Luongo and seal the win.
“There was a lot of hype around this game, and their players were aware of it, and I think they really found a way to get energized and to pay hard,” said head coach Alain Vigneault. “For me, the only disappointing thing of this game is the way Louie played and we couldn’t find a way to score in the shootout.”
After Petr Sykora and Ryan Kesler
traded goals in regulation, and Luongo stoned the Penguins in overtime, the shootout was full value for a standing-room only GM place crowd.
Trevor Linden was the only Canucks to beat Dany Sabourin in the shootout, while Erik Christensen bested Luongo before Letang ended it in sudden death.
“[Luongo] was phenomenal,” said Vigneault. “They had a penalty shot in overtime - the top player in the league - it doesn’t get much better than that. [Our] goalie makes the save and you think the stars would’ve been a little more aligned there and we could’ve been able to give him a win, but we didn’t.”
Sabourin, the former Canucks backup, made 35 saves for the Penguins in regulation and overtime, then stopped five of six in the shootout as Pittsburgh won for the seventh time in eight games, completing a three-game sweep of their first trip through Western Canada since Sidney Crosby joined the team.
"Oh yeah, I was pretty familiar with what they were trying to do so that was an advantage for me," said Sabourin, who was starting after Marc-Andre Fleury hurt his ankle in Calgary Thursday night. "I have to take it like just another game but to win against my old teammates, I think it's a bonus for me."
"Goalies made some great saves,” said Crosby. “It was just tough to score tonight," said Crosby after being awarded a penalty shot when he was hauled down by Aaron Miller on a breakaway 2:29 into overtime. Visibly fatigued at the end of his shift, the Penguins called timeout so Crosby could catch his breath, but after faking Luongo to the ice with a strong move, Crosby couldn't get the puck over Luongo's sprawled arm.
"First one I thought I had him," he said. "If I get it up a little bit more it's a goal but second one I probably rushed a little because the puck started to roll on me. Those are opportunities you thrive on and hope to get. Unfortunately it didn't go in, but for other guys to step up is big."
Kesler tied the game for the Canucks early in the third period after the Penguins carried the play for much of the game.
Kesler picked up a pass just outside the Pittsburgh blue line and cut across the slot before snapping his eighth of the year over Sabourin’s blocker.
“Burrows made a good pass there and just cut across the middle and shot far side,” said Kesler, who spent most of his night tailing the Penguins’ marquee scorer and held him pointless – the first time Crosby has been held off the score sheet in consecutive games this season.
Despite the late rally and Luongo’s heroics, the Canucks lost for the second time in seven games, and the first time on home ice November 14th when the Oilers won 1-0 in a shootout.
Both teams were playing for the third time in four nights, with the Penguins coming from Alberta and the Canucks from Nashville after games Thursday.
“It took us a little bit of time to find out legs there, but in general I’m really proud of the way the guys competed tonight and played,” said Vigneault. “I mean, that’s a very strong team with a lot of skill. And the schedule was definitely a challenge, as much as I’m trying not to make a big deal out of it, I’m telling you, we came back from a tough trip, a long flight, and anybody that does those trips with us knows how challenging they are to get thrown back here and play a game.”
Scored the shootout winner for the second straight game.
He was easily the most dangerous Penguin and set up their only regulation goal.
Stopped 31 of 32 shots to give his team every possible chance to win on HNIC.
Luongo was the busy early as the Penguins outshot Vancouver 22-12 through the first half. But Luongo, who was runner up to Crosby for the Hart Trophy as league MVP last season, made a handful of terrific saves, including a stacked-pads glove stop of Sykora alone in front, and a fully extended right pad save on Ryan Malone after Crosby spotted him alone backdoor.
Sykora finally beat Luongo after Evgeni Malkin sent found Sykora alone in tight off a 2-on-2 rush. Sykora snapped a quick shot through Luongo as he slid to his right. At the other end, Sabourin was good when he needed to be, making his best early saves off Sami Salo
power-play blasts before the Canucks seemed to find their legs midway through the second period.
Kesler tied the game 3:40 into the third, catching Saborin moving to his left and beating him with a 33-foot wrist shot over his blocker the other way.
The Canucks are now 0-3 in shootouts this season after dropping a pair of decisions to the Oilers in November. They’ve struggled to support their goaltender, who has been exceptional once the games get to OT.
“It gets concerning when you have few of them, and you start losing at them…we’ve had three this year; some teams have had seven or eight,” said Brendan Morrison, who was one of five Canucks who failed to beat Sabourin in the shootout. “It would be nice to win a couple, like I said, Louie gave us a chance again. He had a great 60 minutes and overtime, and we couldn’t pull off.”
Pittsburgh s Georges Laraques knocked Jeff Cowan out of the game in the second period with a big hit into the glass that left the Canucks' tough guy unable to get up and off the ice without assistance. Cowan injured his shoulder on the play.
Notes: The last time the Penguins played in Vancouver was Dec. 9, 2003, and only three players on that Pittsburgh roster are still with the team today. ... Fleury is listed as day-to-day, but was wearing a walking boot in the press box. ... Pittsburgh called up Ty Conklin from the AHL to back up Sabourin. The Penguins wrap up a four-game road trip in Philadelphia on Tuesday. ... Vancouver plays the fourth game in a stretch of eight in eight different cities in Los Angeles on Monday.