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