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The Pittsburgh Penguins entered Tuesday’s home opener against the Florida Panthers anticipating the long-awaited return of franchise point guard Kris Letang.

But then they got a plot twist worthy of Agatha Christie when they entered the contest without their All-Star goalkeeper Tristan Jarry, who was sidelined with an undisclosed injury.

With backup goaltender Casey DeSmith fired up, the Penguins cruised to a chaotic 7-6 victory against the Panthers at PPG Paints Arena.

Letang’s goal 4 minutes, 6 seconds into overtime was the difference.

It is not known, at least not publicly, how Jarry was injured. After Tuesday’s morning skate, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan announced him as the starter for the contest. Jarry did not participate in the warm-up.

After the game, Sullivan did not respond to a question about Jarry’s injury on Tuesday, saying only that he did not know Jarry would not be available to play until the goaltender arrived on the field. In addition, Sullivan noted that Jarry’s condition is still being evaluated.

This was the eighth game (out of 11) in January that Jarry has missed due to injury. He missed seven games from Jan. 5-18 with a questionable right foot injury suffered on Jan. 2.

As for Letang, he played his first game since Dec. 28 after missing 11 contests due to an undisclosed injury as well as family issues following the Dec. 31 death of his father, Claude Fouquet.

“The body is ready,” Letang said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “The mind is restless. You want to go out there and play.”

Letang finished with two goals and two assists for 26:29 of ice time in 32 shifts. He also recorded a team-high six tackles on 10 attempts.

“I was just happy to be there, you know?” Letang said after the game. “Being in a team atmosphere.”

The Panthers took their first lead of the game with 6:42 left on forward Sam Rinehart’s 16th goal of the season.

Taking a pass at the right end of the scrimmage, Panthers linebacker Aaron Ekblad slid a one-timer that missed the mark and went wide of the far sideline. From the left side of the crease, Reinhart placed the puck and lifted a wrister over DeSmith’s right leg. Ekblad and striker Alexander Barkov made assists.

It became a two-point contest just 86 seconds later on a goal by Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk.

From the center of the offensive zone, Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour loaded a heavy wrister and fired it over the net. After Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin blocked a shot with his stick above the blue paint, a wild scramble ensued after Tkachuk tipped a shot through DeSmith’s five-hole for Montour and Barkow’s 25th goal.

Letang got the Penguins on the scoreboard at 10:56 of the first period.

Taking a bank pass from the near boards in the right spot of the strike zone, Letang reached for the cage. Positioned outside the right hashmark, Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin let the puck glance off his stick and through his legs to the left side of the crease. Penguins forward Rickard Rakell got past Panthers defenseman Gustav Forsling and deflected his stick shot behind goaltender Alex Lyon’s right skate for his 18th goal. Malkin and Letang had assists.

An unlikely spring tied the game at 2-2 exactly one minute later.

After gaining the offensive zone on the left wing, Penguins forward Drew O’Connor drove wide to the near corner and centered a pass to teammate Ryan Pauling, who leaned down and slid in a one-timer. After a right-footed shot was denied by Lyon, forward Danton Heinen, hovering above the crease, was able to fire a puck past Lyon’s right puck for his fourth goal of the season and first since Oct. 22. O’Connor:

Letang gave the Penguins their first lead at 18:14 early in the game.

Taking a pass in the center of the Panthers’ zone, Dumoulin scanned the scene and fired a shot behind the right markers, where Letang, his longtime partner, tipped it past Lyon’s left skate with his stick. his third goal. Dumoulin and Heinen had assists.

DeSmith’s fumble allowed the Panthers to tie the game again, 3-3, at 19:19 of the first period.

Ekblad, with the puck near his left corner, broke up the ice in hopes of getting Panthers forward Carter Verhaigy out. Diack was jumping as he reached the center red line, and Verhege let him into the offensive zone ahead of him. DeSmith made a play hoping to shoot the ball into the right circle, but Verheghe turned that tactic into a goal with a one-handed shot that lifted off DeSmith’s blocker and into the empty net for his 24th goal. The only assist went to Ekblad.

Ekblad scored a shorthanded goal at 10:34 of the second period to give the Panthers a 4-3 lead.

After a neutral zone turnover by Penguins forward Jake Guentzel, Reinhart gained possession of the offensive blue line near the center point and jumped into the ekblad, soaring to the right circle. As Penguins defenseman Jeff Petry was slow to react, Ekblad toasted DeSmith’s glove on the nearside for the eighth goal. Reinhart and Tkachuk had assists.

Penguins forward Sidney Crosby got on the scoreboard with his 23rd goal on the power-play sequence at 19:19 of the second period.

From behind his own blue line, Petry intercepted a stretch pass that was partially deflected by Barkov in the neutral zone. After Guntzel deflected the shot slightly, it bounced off Florida’s Anton Lundell’s stick at the Florida blue line and bounced into the offensive zone. Crosby picked up the loose puck, drove past Forsling and attacked the cage. After going close, he slotted a smooth cross through Lyon’s five-hole for his 23rd goal. Assists went to Guentzel and Petrie.

The Panthers’ fourth line regained another lead, 5-4, with 4:10 left in the third period.

After winning a battle against Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel in the left corner of the offensive zone, Panthers forward Ryan Lomberg threw a pass to Nick Cousins ​​just inside the left circle. Rounding off a check by rookie Penguins defenseman PO Joseph, Cousins ​​hit a shot past Panthers forward Colin White, who danced to the front of the crease and fired a shot behind DeSmith for his sixth goal.

At 10:29 of the third period, it was tied again, 5-5, thanks to the Penguins’ fourth line when O’Connor won the goalie battle for his third goal.

Taking a pass from the top of the right circle, Heinen tried to distribute the shot to Poehling, cutting from the right wing to the crease, but they couldn’t connect and Lyon was forced to make a save. On the rebound, Pauling had the presence of mind to backdoor O’Connor from the left of the blue paint, who hit a backhander that flew up and hit the left post. With Lyon out of good position, O’Connor had plenty of time to mulligan and hit a forehand. Poling and Heinen had assists.

Malkin put the Penguins up 6-5 with a goal at 2:30 of the third.

With a loose puck on the left half wall of the scrimmage, Crosby surveyed his options and made a seam pass to Malkin at the top of the right circle, who clapped a one-timer that glanced off Forsling’s left hand and into Lyon’s charred glove. on the near side. Malkin had his 17th assist from Crosby and Letang.

The Panthers hung on and refused to let this frenzy of a contest lead to regulation, tying things up for good at 6-6 at 17:28 of the third frame.

In front of the Penguins bench, Tkachuk forced a cross-court pass that was broken up by Malkin, who deflected the Penguins’ lane. Raquel was unable to wrap the puck and inadvertently deflected it to her right region. It essentially served as a stretch pass for the aggressive Verhege, who chased down the shot, got a little deep below the goal line and pushed DeSmith out of the crease, allowing Verhege to hit a smart forehand. There were no assists.

In overtime, after each team had a couple of quality scoring chances on a three-on-three play, Montour hit Petrie with a high stick at the 3:26 mark to give the Penguins a four-on-three power play opportunity.

Letang drew a loose board at the left point, drew inside Barkov and passed to Malkin at the top of the right circle. Allowing the Panthers to retreat to their net a bit, Malkin returned the puck to Letang, who slid a one-timer to the near side of Lyon’s blocker. Aided by Malkin and Crosby, who provided an effective screen on the sequence.

While DeSmith’s goals-against average (3.34) and save percentage (.900) each took a couple of hits, his record improved to 7-9-3 after he had 33 saves on 39 shots.

DeSmith received little notice that he would start on Tuesday.

“(Goalie coach Andy Chiodo) just came in and told me I was going to come in during warmups in the gym, five minutes before I was supposed to start dressing,” DeSmith said. “It was pretty last minute, but those things happen.”

Games with 13 goals and six different lead changes rarely happen.

“Sometimes there are plays you can’t really explain,” Crosby said. “This one is hard (to explain). They don’t happen very often. On both sides, there are odd jumps. Guys seemed to find guys in different places.

“Sometimes those games happen. You want to be on their right side.”

Letang was happy to just be on the ice with his teammates, his extended family, after a rough couple of weeks.

“These guys have supported me over the last month,” Letang said. “It’s just great to be back.”

Notes:

• The Penguins had 49 shots, their second-highest of the season. Their high remains the 52 they posted on Oct. 13 in a 6-2 home win over the Arizona Coyotes.

• All 18 Penguins skaters recorded at least one shot on Tuesday.

• Dumoulin (124 points) passed forward Greg Shepard (123) for 73rd on the franchise’s career scoring list.

• Heinen had a career high with a goal and two assists. His last goal and multiple points came on October 22nd in a 6–3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, when he scored twice.

• The Penguins’ last overtime win was a 3-2 home win against the Panthers on March 5, 2019. Guntzel scored against goaltender Roberto Luongo in the extra frame.

• The Panthers were in a similar situation to the Penguins regarding their goaltending. While goalkeeper Spencer Knight was on the roster for the game, he did not physically sit on the bench during the game as he nursed an undisclosed injury.

Panthers coach Paul Morris declined to comment on Knight’s status when asked after the game.

With Sergei Bobrovsky sidelined with an undisclosed injury, Florida’s third-string goaltender Lyons played his second game in as many nights with the organization. Lyon made 20 saves on 25 shots in a 6-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday.

Seth Rorabaugh is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. You can reach Seth via email at [email protected] or via Twitter .



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