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Penguins beat Capitals in wild opener on Kris Letang’s OT goal

October 6, 2018
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The Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin celebrates the Captials second goal in the first period against the Penguins Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

If the Pittsburgh Penguins play 81 more games like this, Kris Letang will have a big smile on his face and coach Mike Sullivan won’t have a hair left on his head.

Letang scored his second goal of the game on a power play in overtime, leading the Penguins to a wild, season-opening 7-6 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Letang scored on a one-timer from the point at the 1-minute, 20-second mark of overtime after Evgeny Kuznetsov was called for hooking Sidney Crosby.

“Really happy about the overall performance,” Letang said. “There were ups and downs. We certainly showed some good things. I think it was the first game. Guys were kind of holding their stick pretty tight, hesitant in different areas. It’s the first one. It’s always like that.”

The goal gave Letang three points on the night, bringing him into a tie with Paul Coffey atop the team’s all-time defenseman scoring list with 440 points.

It was an appropriate night to tie the record because a brilliant scorer like Coffey would have loved playing in a game like this. The defensive zone was messy, and the offensive zone was a fertile ground for chance after chance.

“For a guy like me, I like it. For different guys, it’s not fun,” Letang said. “The coach, I think (aged) 10 years behind the bench.”

After a wild start and a strong second period, it looked like the Penguins had a comfortable 6-4 lead with about seven minutes left.

Then T.J. Oshie scored twice in 21 seconds to force overtime.

On the first goal, Oshie was the beneficiary of a naked defensive-zone turnover by Evgeni Malkin. On the second, he tipped in a John Carlson point shot with a stick high enough to necessitate a video review.

“We had them on the ropes, and we let it slip,” Letang said.

In addition to the overtime winner, the Penguins had to like their second period. They tightened up a bit, allowing only a Carlson goal on a two-on-one and scoring three times.

Letang forged a 3-3 tie on a point shot 30 seconds into the period. Jake Guentzel scored his second goal of the game about five minutes before intermission, tipping in a Justin Schultz shot from the right point.

Derick Brassard gave the Penguins a 5-4 lead when he cleaned up the rebound of a Dominik Simon point shot with three minutes to go.

“It was a tough game to feel good about yourself,” Letang said. “For five minutes, we were on top of them. For five minutes, they were on top of us. It was hard to get momentum in this game.”

The first eight minutes of the game were, to use a technical term, bananas. Five of the first seven shots taken by both teams went in.

“That was a fun one,” goalie Matt Murray said. “Maybe not for the goalies, but we’ll take the two points.”

For Washington, Jakub Vrana scored off a lively rebound off the end boards. Brooks Orpik scored on a shot from the blue line, and Murray still isn’t sure how it got through his pants. Alex Ovechkin knifed between Letang and Brian Dumoulin and redirected in a pass from Christian Djoos.

Luckily for the Penguins, conditions were no better for Braden Holtby at the other end of the rink. He gave up goals to Jamie Oleksiak and Guentzel.

“It’s something we have to clean up quick,” Crosby said. “It’s better to clean it up when you’ve won. As long as we recognize it and get better, that’s the main thing.”

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