Kennedy OT goal increases Penguins' streak to 12
Penguins defenseman Simon Despres couldn't have known about the vote of confidence his general manager had just given him.
That didn't stop him from making Ray Shero look like a smart man Sunday night.
Despres made the play that triggered Tyler Kennedy's overtime goal in a 2-1 victory against the Flyers. The Penguins have won 12 consecutive games and might not have had the opportunity for the victory without the 21-year-old defenseman's daring play.
Despres easily could have dumped the puck deep while Penguins forwards made a change — in fact, any hockey coach would have favored such a move — but the youngster possesses abilities that aren't always coachable.
“He'll make a play like once a night, where you go, ‘Whoa, you can't do that,' but he goes and gets it done,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said.
Despres made such a play in overtime, coolly waiting for forwards Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis to jump into the play while holding the puck at the Flyers' blue line.
“I knew our two forwards were coming,” Despres said. “I just wanted to slow down and wait for them. I couldn't get a good pass through to Duper, so I just banked it off the boards to him.”
Plays like that are part of the reason Shero traded defenseman Joe Morrow — he clearly is a believer in Despres' ability.
“Simon is not in any trade discussions,” Shero said following the first period. “To me, he'll be here on our team. We liked him as a prospect. He's a young player coming up like Kris Letang back in 2008. Kris didn't play every game in the playoffs (that year), but it was a great experience for him being around the type of players that we had.”
After Despres' calculated decision helped Dupuis control possession, Kennedy ripped a wrist shot that beat goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Sidney Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer, tied the game, 1-1, with 6:14 remaining on a slap shot during a five-on-three power play.
“I passed up a couple of shots in the first period,” Kennedy said. “Wasn't doing that again.”
The Penguins decided to trade Morrow partially because of Despres' emergence.
He still makes the occasional mistake — notably a turnover in the third period that gave the Flyers an odd-man rush — but makes up for it with his play at both ends of the ice.
Shero's comments give the defenseman more confidence.
“It's nice to hear,” he said.
His teammates appear to be buying into Despres' presence on the blue line, even if he has an aggressive style.
“I don't think confidence has ever been a problem for him,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “That's one of the reasons you see him try some of the things he does. Sometimes you get young guys who are too stupid to be nervous. Guys like him are so carefree that they're actually really tough to play against.”
Coach Dan Bylsma said he thinks Despres has become tough to play against.
“He has great ability,” Bylsma said. “He's got the puck-moving ability. He's got the size. He does not play a soft game.”
And he never had to worry about being surpassed by Morrow on the depth chart.
“He shouldn't have felt footsteps from Joe Morrow,” Bylsma said. “He's a legitimate, contributing, good defenseman in this league.”
And he's only getting better.
“This is all part of his learning curve,” Orpik said. “There is an awful lot of talent there.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Occupying playoff spot on Thanksgiving good harbinger for Penguins
- Penguins notebook: Cole more at ease facing former team
- Hard-hitting Penguins veteran winger Kunitz is last of a dying breed
- Starkey: Farewell to NHL fighting
- Dumoulin-Lovejoy combo emerges as Penguins’ go-to defensive tandem
- Penguins notebook: Optional practice yields unusual defensemen demographic
- Penguins notebook: New NHL bye week sits well with Crosby
- Penguins can’t solve Sharks’ defense in defeat
- Penguins’ Maatta out 3-4 weeks with upper-body injury
- Breaking down the ‘structure’ of Penguins system
- Malkin, Crosby come through as Penguins hold on for win