Penguins keep working overtime magic, beat Flames
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan admitted he gets a little nervous when games go to three-on-three overtime.
With so much open ice for players to work with, it's practically impossible for a coach to implement systems or draw up plays on his dry-erase board.
In essence, he's reduced to little more than a spectator.
What a show he saw Monday night.
What a show he's seen all season.
Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel combined to set up Justin Schultz for the winning goal with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left in overtime, lifting the Penguins to a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames.
The Penguins have won back-to-back games in overtime. They're 9-2 in games decided in the tiebreaking period this season.
"We've talked about certain strategies that we think can help us be effective three-on-three, but for the most part, it's really just about great players making great plays," Sullivan said. "When our guys have the puck, I think they're dynamic."
That's an understatement.
The play that led to Schultz's goal began with a 100-foot bank pass from Kessel to Malkin, who entered the offensive zone at the left point. Malkin pulled up and shoveled an airborne centering pass that Kessel gloved down with his right hand. Kessel skated up the right wing, drawing two defenders to him, and passed back to Schultz in the left faceoff circle for a shot into an empty cage.
Malkin's assist gave him 27 career overtime points, a franchise record. Kessel's assist gave him six overtime points this season, most in the NHL and another franchise record.
"I just tried to get open for those two guys," Schultz said. "They're so good with the puck. Just find some space."
The goal put a happy face on what was an otherwise pretty mediocre showing by the Penguins. Calgary had a 38-32 edge in shots and a 64-46 advantage in even-strength shot attempts.
The Penguins spent long stretches in the defensive zone in the first two periods and conceded multiple odd-man rushes in the third. Tristan Jarry, who made 35 saves, was put to the test regularly.
The fourth line was victimized for two goals in the first period. One came on a Mark Giordano shot from the left half-wall at the end of an interminable defensive-zone shift for the Penguins. The other came when Mikael Backlund danced around Kris Letang and beat Jarry with a backhand move.
The Flames also scored a big goal with 2.4 seconds left in the second period when T.J. Brodie beat the Penguins defense up the left wing and steered a centering pass back to Troy Brouwer.
"I don't think it was our best game," Sullivan said. "I think we found a way to win, but I'm not going to sit here and say we played a real good game."
The Penguins stayed in the game in regulation thanks to the eye-popping skill of Malkin and the offensive instincts of their defensemen jumping up into the play.
Malkin knocked down a waist-high clearing attempt by goalie Jon Gillies on his backhand and in the same motion, pushed it toward the top of the crease and converted to make it 2-0 in the first period.
Chad Ruhwedel jumped up into the high slot and scored after Kessel and Riley Sheahan stole a puck on the forecheck in the first period. Letang joined a rush and scored on a wrister from the right wing in the second.
"That's part of our identity as a team," Ruhwedel said. "We work on that a lot in practice. It makes it really hard on the other team to defend when you have numbers in the rush. Everybody likes playing offense. When you get a chance to join, you take advantage of it."
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.