| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Letang dazzles with dynamic play in Game 5 win

Penguins/NHL Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Kris Letang celebrates a second-period goal against the Senators on Friday, May 24, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Yohe
Friday, May 24, 2013, 10:24 p.m.

Defenseman Kris Letang passed his old mentor, Sergei Gonchar, on the franchise's all-time postseason scoring list Friday.

He also badly outclassed Gonchar and his contemporary, Erik Karlsson, while igniting the Penguins' charge in a 6-2 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Ottawa Senators.

Letang is now tied with teammate Evgeni Malkin for second in the NHL in postseason scoring with 16 points. He led all players in the series with 10 points.

“He's pretty impressive,” defenseman Douglas Murray said.

Letang was enduring a tumultuous postseason through nine games, his production as consistent as his turnovers.

Then something happened in Game 4 in Ottawa.

In the past five periods of the series, Letang produced one goal and five assists. Coach Dan Bylsma decided to place Letang with old defense partner Mark Eaton after the first period in Game 4, and the plan worked to perfection.

“It's a comfortable pair,” Bylsma said. “They've played a lot together, both this year and in the past. Kris was playing the off side with (Matt) Niskanen at times in Game 4. That wasn't the strongest period in Game 4. We switched our pairs at that time. It worked well. Kris is comfortable there.”

A comfortable Letang is a dangerous Letang.

With Eaton by his side, Letang suddenly stopped committing turnovers and whistling the puck blindly into the neutral zone. Instead, the Norris Trophy nominee played a more thoughtful game, making the right plays while letting his unparalleled athleticism do the rest.

He essentially put Game 5 away with two terrific plays in the second period, one of the cerebral variety and the other that required nothing but exquisite skill.

Letang wisely threw a puck at goalie Craig Anderson's feet from behind the net in the second period. Right wing James Neal was there to tap it in.

Later in the period, Letang skated down the left wing, swerved violently toward the slot and buried a shot past Anderson.

The goal was beauty, but Letang was more pleased with his solid defensive work during a plus-3 evening.

“You can't really look at it that way,” said Letang, when it was mentioned that he is now second in the NHL in playoff scoring. “We have to see how I play defensively. Just have to make sure I do a good job in my own end. When you do that, you get rewarded.”

Letang's 10 points are the most he has ever produced in a series and only three fewer than he scored during the 2009 Stanley Cup playoff run.

His numbers not only led all scorers in the series but dwarfed those of Karlsson and Gonchar.

The pair finished with two assists apiece. Karlsson was a minus-5 during the series, Gonchar a minus-7.

Statistically, Letang stood alone.

Among NHL defenseman, he might also stand alone if he can bottle his performance from the previous five periods.

“I played against him for a long time so I know how good he is,” goalie Tomas Vokoun said. “He's got everything there is to have, from talent to skating ability, to vision. Everything. He works hard, too. When you have a person like that, the success, it's got to come.”

Did it ever.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Penguins

  1. Penguins trade Sutter to Canucks, sign free agent center Fehr
  2. New Pens winger Fehr ready for defense-first role
  3. Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
  4. Sutter: Staal effect felt on 3rd line with Penguins
  5. Reliving the moment a decade ago that shifted the Penguins history
  6. Penguins to appear on national TV 18 times in 2015-16
  7. Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
  8. Penguins bring in analytics expert from Carnegie Mellon