Updated 3 hours ago
When Bovada.lv released its latest set of odds for the Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the top defenseman in the NHL, Kris Letang had climbed all the way up to third on the tote board.
He was tied with Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty at 15-2, behind only San Jose’s Brent Burns and Washington’s John Carlson at 9-2.
On Thursday night, Letang gave another example of why odds makers usually know that they’re doing.
Letang scored two goals in the first period, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 6-2 victory over the New York Islanders.
Letang has three goals and 12 points in his last 11 games. For the season, he has seven goals and 24 points, ranking seventh in the league in defenseman scoring.
“Nothing special,” Letang said when asked to explain his scoring spree. “Just trying to play my game and it worked out.”
Against the Islanders, Letang scored a pair of first-period goals to give the Penguins a lead they did not relinquish.
At the end of a particularly effective shift by the third line, Letang and Derick Brassard set up a give-and-go play on the right wing. Letang fired a shot over the shoulder of goalie Thomas Greiss less than nine minutes into the game.
Later, on a routine offensive-zone entry, Letang took a pass from Bryan Rust at the blue line and fired a shot past a screen unintentionally set by Johnny Boychuk that sailed over the left pad but under the glove of Greiss.
When the Penguins had the game in hand in the third period, Letang said he noticed his teammates trying to feed him for a hat-trick goal. He’s never had one in the NHL.
“I had a couple two-goal games in the NHL that I was close, but it was in junior, the last one,” Letang said. “Everybody tonight was trying to get it to me.”
Phil Kessel, who also had a two-goal game, didn’t deny it.
“I would have liked to see him get it,” Kessel said. “I asked him before the third if he ever got one and he said no. It would have been nice for him to get another one.”
“Might be for another time,” Letang shrugged.
If there’s one stat that jumps off the page for Letang this season, it isn’t his goals, assists or lack of hat tricks. It’s his 87 shots on goal, which leads the team.
Letang said his shoot-first approach is not an accident.
“Probably a different mindset going into it,’ Letang said. “Sometimes I have the chance to play with Sid, Geno, those kind of guys. I tried to get them the puck as much as I could before. This year, I’m trying to shoot the puck more and trying to create offense that way.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.