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Offense Soars in Penguins 7-6 overtime win over Washington

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Kris Letang corralled his second goal of the game 1:20 into overtime, lifting the Penguins to a 7-6 victory over Washington in the season opener at PPG Paints Arena Thursday night.

If defensive clinics are your thing, then Thursday night wasn't exactly the seminar you had in mind.

 

The 60-minute offensive marathon between Pittsburgh and Washington brought a combined 13 goals, 77 shots on net, three players with multi-goal games and one nightmare for both netminders.

 

“That was a fun one. Well, maybe not for the goalies,” an easier breathing Matt Murray said after the game.

 

No doubt Murray pushed his biggest sigh of relief out at the 1:20 mark of the overtime period, when his Penguins used a 4-on-3 power play with a team-friendly, strategic force, when Phil Kessel pushed a cross-ice pass to Evgeni Malkin, who kicked to a centered Kris Letang, who ripped a shot under a leaping Sidney Crosby and past the stretched blocker of Braden Holtby for the top-shelf finish.

 

“Yeah, we'll take two points and get out of here,” continued Murray about the finish.

 

“It was a cool moment,” said Letang of his game-winner. “It was a nice setup by the guys. Geno put it in my wheelhouse and I just picked up a corner.”

 

Letang's last of three points on the night marked 440 for his career, tying him with Hall-of-Famer Paul Coffey for the most in team history as a defenseman.

 

“I didn't know that but that's pretty cool,” said Letang about tying Coffey. “That's always a guy that I was looking up to and I had a bunch of exchanges with him throughout my career. That's cool.”

 

Letang notched his first goal 30 seconds into the second period—off a feed from Crosby—to knot the game up at three.

 

“I thought he had a really solid night,” said Mike Sullivan of his top defenseman. “Obviously, he scores a couple of goals but it was more than that. He defended well. He played big minutes for us. I thought he had a really strong night.”

 

Letang spearheaded an assault on Holtby that saw the embattled Capitals goalie stop 34 of 41 shots, including five goals on the first 28 shots the netminder saw.

 

“We wanted to stay consistent offensively and I think we did a good job of that tonight,” said Jake Geuntzel, who scored on his patented screen-and-shoot goals near the crease, sneaking in a deflected pass from Daniel Sprong on the backdoor of Holtby with just over 12 minutes left in the first period.

 

Geuntzel, Derick Brassard and Malkin would each add consecutive goals in a span of just under eight minutes to give the Penguins a 6-4 advantage early in the third period. It was a span of 21 seconds midway through the third period, however, that watched T.J. Oshie single-handedly tie things up at six, with his latter goal—a deflected mid-air puck that was initially called a no goal by the officials, but soon after overturned as a good goal, much to the disapproval of Sullivan.

 

“I thought they called it no goal,” explained Sullivan of Oshi's high stick finish,” and when I saw him wave with his arms, it made me believe it was no goal. When [official] Kendrick (Nicholson) came over to the bench, he explained to me that when they conviened on the ice, they overturned the original call on the ice to a goal and that's a big deal. If they're going to review the goal, it has to be definitive to overturn the call on the ice, otherwise the call on the ice stands.”

 

When asked if the officials got the call right, Murray said, “it looked like it, yeah. It looked like it was right about with the crossbar. Really nice tip by [Oshi].”

 

Jamie Oleksiak opened the game with a goal just 1:49 into the first period.

 

“I think we wanted to respond to our last season,” said Letang of starting strong. “I don't think it mattered if it was [Washington] or another team, the correct way to do it in front of our fans is to start on the right foot. We showed up and we did a bunch of good things.”

 

Big bounce

 

Much was said about the new boards that were installed at PPG Paints Arena for the season, which seemed to give the puck a lot more bounce Thursday night.

 

“It's going to take some getting used too,” said Sullivan of the boards. “We practiced here yesterday just to get more reps, and [the boards] are a lot livelier. The puck comes off so much faster, and even on the rims, when the puck goes around the wall—it's catching our guys by surprise as to how fast it's going around the wall and we're not getting to pucks. It's going to be a little bit of an adjustment process.”

 

“You can just tell on the bounces,” said Geuntzel, “they are a lot more lively and more springy this year. It's something we've been trying to get used too, and obviously it'll take some time.”

 

The new dasher boards were installed mainly for player safety, with a new glass system that will also better protect a player being checked into the boards.

 

“It is safety related,” continued Sullivan. “There is a little bit more give in the boards, so I think the motivation for the new boards was for safety.”

 

The new board system is not required in the NHL yet, and it is not known how many teams have installed them this season.

 

After the Moneyline

 

The Penguins closed as heavy -170 favorites. The total, which was set at six goals, went over at just the 3:54 mark of the second period, when John Carlson scored a go-ahead goal to make it a 4-3 Caps lead.

 

Futures

 

The Penguins enter this season as 12/1 favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Toronto closed as the league-favorites at 7/1 odds.

 

The season point total on Pittsburgh closed at 102.5, which stands as the fifth-best O/U in the league.

 

Up next

 

The Penguins will host Montreal on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7 PM.

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