PITTSBURGH -- Kris Letang had a pretty quiet Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
He wasn’t his usual self, flying up the ice, directing the rush every time he touched the puck, perhaps because he’s fighting a bit of a hand injury incurred in the Tampa Bay series.
Yet all it took for Letang to have a profound impact during the Penguins' 3-2 victory over the Sharks at CONSOL Energy Center was one pass.
One pass on the forecheck, if you can believe it.
Letang got deep -- he does it a lot in the playoffs -- and pinned the puck against the boards for what would become a game-winning assist on Nick Bonino’s goal at 17:27 of the third period.
“I was calling for the puck in the neutral zone,” he said. “I had a lot of speed coming up. What happened behind the goal line, I just noticed that [Brent] Burns lost his stick or broke his stick. I had a little bit more time to make a play and I found Bones on the back door.”
Letang does this forecheck thing a lot, which is something a lot of defensemen won’t do unless there’s a man up high covering for them or they have blazing speed to get back -- which Letang has.
“He’s done that all season,” Sidney Crosby observed. “That's his game. He generates offense for us. You could tell when he got that puck he was able to hold onto it down low. He was trying to make something happen.”
And he did.
“It was just like [Carl] Hagelin brings so much speed that he opens up the neutral zone and I was able to jump in the play,” Letang said. “The fact that I was behind the goal line was just the broken stick or the lost stick of Burns that allowed me to have a little bit more time down there, so I stayed.”
And his team won.
“Great feeling,” Letang said. “I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know there was like two, three minutes left. So when I looked at the clock I was pretty happy.”
Happy that he gets to forecheck every now and then … just like the forwards.