Penguins give up late lead again, prevail in shootout vs. Predators
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For the fifth time in their past 14 games, the Pittsburgh Penguins blew a one-goal lead late in the third period and went to overtime.
This time, they lived to tell the tale.
Sidney Crosby converted on his attempt in the shootout, Matt Murray stopped all three Nashville Predators shooters and the Penguins survived another late tying goal to emerge with a 2-1 win.
The Penguins moved into a second-place tie with the New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division race, three points behind first-place Washington. They’re four points up on fourth-place Carolina and seven points ahead of ninth-place Columbus in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“You need to go through those situations in order to learn from them,” Crosby said. “It’s better to learn from a win.”
With the Penguins trying to protect a 1-0 lead with less than four minutes left in regulation, Ryan Ellis lobbed a seemingly harmless shot on net from a bad angle on the right wing that banked in off goalie Matt Murray’s left side.
Murray had recorded shutouts in his three previous meetings with the Predators, counting regular season and playoffs. This time, he gave up a goal at the most inopportune moment.
“It was a bit of a knuckle-puck, and I just didn’t squeeze tight enough,” Murray said. “One that I gotta have for sure. Again, just good that we got two points.”
Murray is in the middle of a confounding stretch of the season. He has phenomenal numbers in his last 13 starts — a 7-2-4 record to go with a .928 save percentage — but he also has given up the tying goal in the final four minutes four times during that span.
Murray, who stopped Ryan Johansen, Ellis and Brian Boyle in the shootout, said his confidence is not shaken.
“I just try to stop every puck, no matter what time of the game, no matter what scenario it’s in. I just play hockey,” he said. “It doesn’t change, no matter what.”
Coach Mike Sullivan gave an even stronger endorsement of his goaltender’s recent form.
“I think he’s playing terrific,” Sullivan said. “He’s made some big saves. He’s so calm and confident in there. He looks so big in the net. I think he’s playing terrific. I think the goaltending position, that resilience, that applies to that position more than any, and he has that. He has that attribute instinctively. He’s playing really well for us right now.”
Crosby had the lone successful attempt of the shootout, firing a shot between the pads of goalie Pekka Rinne in the bottom of the second round.
“That’s what he does for us,” Sullivan said. “That’s what he does. I’ve run out of adjectives to describe Sid’s play. He’s a tremendous player and the ultimate competitor.”
Crosby’s line also produced the lone Penguins goal in regulation. About six minutes into the second period, Kris Letang fired a puck on net from the right point. Bryan Rust stopped it on his blade before it reached Rinne and steered it around the goaltender.
“We played really hard,” Crosby said. “I thought we deserved better. It was a good game. I thought we could have had more than a one-goal lead.”
Despite their recent rash of blown leads, the Penguins are 33-0-3 when leading after two periods this season.
“I know sometimes you guys like to use the adjective that we ‘blew a lead,’ ” Sullivan said. “It’s 1-0. There’s scoring chances at both ends. Sometimes a chance is going to go in your net. You’ve just got to keep playing and react and respond the right way.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .