Anthony Perez | Dave Vest GLENDALE – In a game they played minus Shane Doan (lower-body injury) and Ed Jovanovski (illness), the Coyotes pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins to a shootout, but Mark Letestu lifted his team over Phoenix, 4-3, on Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena.
The Coyotes jumped to a 1-0 lead when Eric Belanger notched his third goal of the season, a wrist shot that beat Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury just 2:35 into the game.
Phoenix extended its lead to 2-0 about four minutes later when Radim Vrbata drove to the net and tucked the puck past Fleury just before the net came dislodged. A video review of the goal was needed, and it confirmed the tally.
After Vrbata's goal, the Penguins replaced Fleury, who gave up two goals on five shots, with Brent Johnson.
Pittsburgh cut the lead in half at the 1:16 mark of the second period when Sidney Crosby scored his ninth goal of the season off a turnover in the Coyotes’ end. The Penguins tied the score a few minutes later with Evgeni Malkin’s fourth goal of the season; an eye-popping wrist shot that beat Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Coyotes (4-5-4) took the lead back with 4:24 left in the second period when Wojtek Wolski scored his first goal of the season with a shot that deflected off Penguins defenseman Paul Martin and beat Johnson under the crossbar.
Photo by Getty Images
But the Penguins (7-7-1) rallied once more. With just 34 seconds left in the second period, Chris Kunitz tied the score at 3-3 when he fired a wrist shot from the right of Bryzgalov that found the back of the net.
The Penguins had a golden chance to win the game in overtime after Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was called for holding at 3:29. But Phoenix killed the penalty to force a shootout - its first of the season.
After the first five shooters - Pittsburgh's Crosby and Kris Letang, and Phoenix's Vrbata, Wolski and Lauri Korpikoski - all failed to score, the Penguins sent Letestu onto the ice and he secured the win for the Penguins. (see KEY MOMENT below).
“I thought we competed hard,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “I thought we did some really good things tonight. We have to keep pounding away. When you don’t get rewarded for that it’s frustrating, but we’ve got to keep digging our way out.”
Johnson, who briefly tended goal for the Coyotes a few years back, stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced while Bryzgalov stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced in the losing effort.
Penguins rookie Mark Letestu won the game for Pittsburgh when his shot from between the faceoff circles slid between Ilya Bryzgalov’s legs and into the Coyotes net in the third round of the shootout. It was the only goal in the shootout, and it was also the first shootout attempt of Letestu's NHL career.
• The Coyotes will not practice on Sunday before flying to Detroit. Phoenix's next game is on Monday vs. the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The puck drops at 5:30 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on Versus. The game can be heard on the Coyotes Radio Network.
"I think I was just fed up, embarrassed. It just got to the point where I watched enough games (on tape) … and watched No. 86 on the ice and thought 'Who is that guy and why is he out there?'"
"We did a lot of good things, we just have to learn to play with a lead. After it was 2-0, we were just sitting back a little too much instead of going after the next goal."
"I had a lot of success in the minors and in practice, and I was happy Dan called my number (in the shootout). I knew what I was going to do - the other guys were deking, so I decided to try to be quicker than the goalie and surprise him."
• Dec. 20, 2010:
• Nov. 6, 2010: PIT 4, PHX 3 (SO)
1 - 0 PHX
2 - 0 PHX
2 - 1 PHX
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 PHX
3 - 3 Tie