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Penguins

Casey DeSmith's saves, Jake Guentzel's goal fuels Penguins win over Bruins

Jonathan Bombulie
| Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, 9:51 p.m.

Thanks to a strong performance in net from Casey DeSmith and a clutch goal from Jake Guentzel, the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to avoid a potentially painful loss to the Boston Bruins on Friday night.

They are hoping they can avoid a potentially painful loss of defenseman Kris Letang to injury as well.

DeSmith made a career-high 48 saves, and Guentzel scored a tie-breaking goal with about nine minutes left as the Penguins bounced back from a brutal loss in Chicago two days prior with a 5-3 win over the Bruins.

Letang was injured moments after assisting on Guentzel’s go-ahead goal. His left leg bent awkwardly as he skated into hunched-over Bruins forward Joakim Nordstrom.

Letang had difficulty making his way to the locker room. After the game, coach Mike Sullivan said he had no update on the star defenseman’s condition.

Filling Letang’s spot in the lineup wouldn’t be difficult for the Penguins, who are carrying eight defensemen. Juuso Riikola or Chad Ruhwedel is the next man up.

Replacing the contributions of Letang, who is having an outstanding season, would prove nigh impossible if he is out for a long time.

“With his absence, if he is, we’ve done it before,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “We’ve got to keep it simple. No one’s going to replace Tanger and pick up the minutes that he does, but collectively, if we can all play a couple extra minutes, I think that’s something we can do, especially with the Christmas break coming up here.”

The Penguins played with a lot more competitive fire than they did in a 6-3 loss to Chicago on Wednesday, but sloppiness left them chasing the Bruins more than they would have liked.

The Bruins held a 51-28 shots advantage and erased a two-goal deficit with goals by Chris Wagner and David Krejci 54 seconds apart in the third period.

Given those ugly facts, how were the Penguins able to come out with a victory?

• First and foremost, DeSmith turned in a brilliant performance. Most notable was a first-period stop on a Brad Marchand backhand that will live on his highlight reel for the rest of his career.

Sliding to his right, DeSmith reached back and gloved down a Marchand shot that seemed destined for the back of the net.

“I just kind of fell over and stuck something over there,” DeSmith said. “Thankfully, it went in my glove. That was not technique. That was get something over there, get a little bit of luck. Battle to keep the puck out of the net. There was a lot of that tonight.”

• Guentzel’s goal stopped Boston’s momentum. On a set play off an offensive-zone faceoff, Sidney Crosby won a draw back to Letang for a shot from the point. In the high slot, Guentzel got just enough of the puck to deflect it past Jaroslav Halak.

“Sid kind of gave the nod, so we knew it was coming,” Guentzel said.

• Beyond DeSmith and Guentzel’s heroics, Zach Aston-Reese, Evgeni Malkin and Derek Grant made significant contributions.

Aston-Reese scored a short-handed goal in the third period, turning the tables for the Penguins, who have allowed a league-high eight goals while killing penalties this season.

Malkin, coming off a poor showing in Chicago, made a nifty pass to set up a Phil Kessel goal early in the second period.

Grant scored the always-popular fourth-line goal late in the first.

“You didn’t sense any panic or any frustration,” Aston-Reese said. “It was kind of a quiet confidence that we had that we needed to manage the puck a little better.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith blocks a shot during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Pittsburgh, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith blocks a shot during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Pittsburgh, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese (46) celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Pittsburgh, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese (46) celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Pittsburgh, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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