April 12, 2012
Bad bounce giving Letang nightmares
By Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency
PITTSBURGH - In the hours afterwards -- both at the rink and later at home -- Kris Letang thought about it, how it happened, how a puck had bounced off his stick.
The fateful moment, which gave the Philadelphia Flyers an overtime win over Letang's Pittsburgh Penguins in the first game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal, even ran through his head after he'd fallen asleep.
"I had a nightmare about it," Letang said of the play that saw Flyers forward Jakub Voracek poke home the puck after it had eluded Letang and Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Thursday after practice, Letang stood in front of his stall in the Penguins dressing room, tucked his long hair behind his ears and shook his head. He said he watched a replay of the goal "a hundred times," and tried to make sense of it.
"Just a weird bounce," he said.
Letang went home after the 4-3 loss Wednesday night and, unable to sleep, watched the rest of the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings game. Seeing the eighth-seeded Kings upset the top-seeded Canucks made him feel a little better about what had happened to the Penguins.
"It's just one game," said Letang. "We're probably going to lose another one at some point."
Letang's night in Game 1 mirrored that of the Penguins. He had a brilliant first period with a couple of assists as the Penguins jumped out to that 3-0 lead. There aren't many defencemen in the league who can make a backhand pass up the middle like he did to start a 2-on-1 that led to the 2-0 goal by Tyler Kennedy.
But it unraveled for the Penguins and Letang -- the power play went 0-for-3, including a chance when it was still 3-0 and another early in the third when it was 3-1 -- and the Flyers, who have made a habit of wiping out opposition leads this season, take a 1-0 series lead into Friday night's Game 2.
The Penguins worked on their power play at practice Thursday, including having forward Steve Sullivan at one of the points with Letang. They talked of trying to balance things between two units, with each getting a minute when possible.
"It's becoming a really big story for something I don't really understand why," said Sullivan. "It's one game. There's some games where we don't score on the power play. We were 0-for-3. If there was another one, we could have scored, 1-for-4, 25% and that leads the league in power-play percentage. We're trying to make up a story there, really. If it does drag on a little more, 0-for-20, it becomes a story; 0-for-3 I really don't think it is a story for our team."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma lamented the power play's lack of success kept them from taking control of the game and also create some momentum.
Captain Sidney Crosby didn't like the lack of patience the Penguins showed on the power play.
"We felt like we'd take a shot and we didn't really get set up. We didn't really try to expose anything there," he said. "We were trying to get shots which is always a good mentality to have on the power play. Sometimes I think we probably could have been a bit more patient and try and set something up. It wasn't a lack of effort or anything like that. We just weren't sharp enough."
"We don't want to give them life," said Letang. "When you don't have it set up and you're not in their zone for a little bit and creating chances, it's tough to get momentum."
Now we move on to Game 2 and already it's late early for the Penguins.
"It's a seven-game series," said Letang. "It's not the end of the world to lose a game."
No, but lose the next one Friday and you can see the end of the world from there.