DENVER — It looked harmless enough.
Late in the second period of what would become a 4-3 Penguins overtime victory at Pepsi Center Friday night, Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog had the puck just outside the Penguins’ blue line, then casually flipped it into the air and toward the net.
It landed a couple of feet in front of Matt Murray, who was positioned squarely in front of it and figured to have no trouble smothering the puck after gravity pulled it back down to ice level.
Assuming it went toward him.
Which it didn't.
Not even close.
Instead, the puck bounced violently to the left, sailing over Murray’s glove and into the net behind him.
"I can't really expect that kind of bounce," Murray said. "I'm just trying to get out and settle it down so our (defense) can make a play, and it bounces sideways on me."
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Suddenly, improbably, the game was threatening to do likewise, as the Avalanche had a 2-1 lead near the end of a period in which the Penguins had had a pronounced edge in play.
Landeskog's goal was the kind that could not only abort a team's short-term momentum, but curdle its confidence. But not this team, and certainly not on this night. For some clubs, adversity is a depressant. For these Penguins, it's practically a nutrient.
So rather than wilting after Landeskog scored, the Penguins regrouped. After all they've endured during the first three-plus months of this season, one fluky goal hardly was enough to puncture their resolve.
“I thought the chatter on the bench after it happened was great,” Mike Sullivan said. “Patric Hornqvist, in particular, really took some leadership there on the bench when it happened. They were all talking about, ‘That happens. You have to forget about it. That’s hockey. Let’s just drop the puck and keep playing.’”
They did that for the next 100 seconds, until the second intermission arrived. Then the Penguins made a statement of another sort. One in which the words were secondary.
“They waited for Matt to make sure they gave him a tap on the pads and encouraged him,” Sullivan said. “That’s an indication of the type of team we’ve become.”
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