Uneven Penguins wrap up long trip at Golden Knights
The Pittsburgh Penguins conclude their longest road trip of the season on Monday night when they face the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights at Las Vegas.
For the Penguins, who have won 12 of their last 14 games, it’ll be the sixth game on the 12-day road trip that began with a 6-2 victory at Philadelphia on Jan. 6. Pittsburgh assured itself of no worse than a .500 trip with a 2-1 overtime victory at San Jose on Saturday night.
That win came after arguably the team’s poorest effort of the season, a 6-2 loss at Los Angeles on Thursday. The Penguins also lost at Dallas, 3-2, before bouncing back for a 4-1 win at Anaheim on Tuesday.
“The season is going to have ebbs and flows,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “These last couple of games are probably the first time we’ve hit a little bit bump in the road as far as just living up to our own standard. … It’s important that we figure that out together.”
Goalie Louis Dominigue, making his first start for Pittsburgh after signing a one-year contract on Sept. 2, made 40 saves in the win over the Sharks. Thanks to a first-period goal by Kris Letang, Pittsburgh was able to make it into overtime where Sidney Crosby made a nifty move in front of the net to set up Jake Guentzel for a game-winning tap-in from the right doorstep.
“We have pretty good bounce-back capabilities,” Crosby said. “We’ve proven that over the years. After a bad game, we turn the page and we’re better the next one. That didn’t happen tonight. So you have to figure it out and make sure that we don’t continue that trend.”
The assist was Crosby’s 37th career overtime point, tying him with Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Elias for most overtime points in NHL history. Letang, who has points in seven consecutive games, also assisted on the winner for his 29th career overtime point, which is tied for most among defensemen in NHL history.
And Guentzel’s team-leading 19th goal of the season gave him a two-point night one game after seeing his 18-game point streak snapped against the Kings.
Vegas, which had games at Edmonton (Friday) and Calgary (Saturday) postponed due to COVID-19-related attendance restrictions, hasn’t played since a 4-3 shootout loss to Toronto on Tuesday and will be playing the seventh of eight consecutive home games. The Golden Knights lost four of their first six home games in the current stretch and are just 12-9-2 at home this season.
“Definitely a little different,” said forward Reilly Smith of the rare six-day midseason break. “Not used to this over the last few years but it’s nice to have. When you grind throughout the season there’s usually a lot of lingering injuries and issues so it’s nice to have a little break to heal. Also, time off just mentally (and) being able to look at the games we’ve played and make the adjustments we need to make right now. We’re fortunate to have these days to do those things.”
The extra time off enabled Vegas to get defenseman Shea Theodore and centers Nicolas Roy and Nolan Patrick back from COVID-19 protocol. Left wing William Carrier (upper-body) also returned to practice on Sunday.
Pittsburgh right wing Bryan Rust also returned from COVID-19 protocol and practiced Sunday while Sullivan said Jason Zucker, out since Dec. 19 with a lower-body injury, is a game-time decision.
–Field Level Media