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Letang, Dumoulin play 250th game as Penguins’ starting pair

Thursday’s overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken marked the 250th time that Dumoulin and Letang have led the Penguins defense onto the ice.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Vegas Golden Knights
Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang talk during the third period against the Golden Knights in Las Vegas on January 17.
Photo by Zak Krill/NHLI via Getty Images

Against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday, Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang started their milestone 250th regular-season Penguins game as No. 1 defensive pair in Pittsburgh.

As of January 27, since Dumoulin joined the Penguins in 2013-14, the two have spent at least 10 minutes on the ice together in 307 games (Natural Stat Trick).

The pair has been the Penguins’ most relied-upon defensive set, when healthy, since 2017; in fact, the pairing has been deployed for over 20 minutes in a single game 66 times (Natural Stat Trick).

Not only have they been reliable, but they’ve been catalysts for some of the Penguins’ most explosive offensive performances of the past few seasons. They were on the ice together for five Penguins goals on October 25, 2018, when the two helped the Penguins to one of the franchise’s four nine-goal games in the past two decades (Stathead Hockey) with a 9-1 win over the Flames in Calgary; Letang and Dumoulin were also together for six Penguins goals on April 22, 2018, when the pairing helped eliminate the Flyers from the first round as Letang set a franchise record for playoff points by a defenseman.

To celebrate their milestone, let’s look back at June 12, 2016, which marked arguably the most impactful game of the top pairing’s 250-game starting career.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Six
Letang and Dumoulin celebrate with Sidney Crosby after a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round of the 2016 playoffs on May 24.
Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images

The Penguins had the chance to close out the 2016 Stanley Cup Final on June 9, when they headed into Game 5 with a three-game lead— but the Sharks forced Game 6 with a 4-2 win, and were looking to push the series to seven when the Penguins’ top two defensemen stepped up on June 12.

Dumoulin opened the scoring fewer than 10 minutes into the first period, when he broke the ice on the power play.

The Sharks found an answer to Dumoulin’s goal in the second period, but Letang only allowed the tie to stand for one minute and 19 seconds before he joined Mario Lemieux (1991, 1992) and Maxime Talbot (2009) as the fourth Penguins skater, and first defenseman, to notch a Stanley Cup-clinching goal.

Will this pair continue to work together past this campaign? It all depends on Ron Hextall and the looming choice Letang might have to make after his stellar 2021-22 season: to stay in Pittsburgh, or to take the maximum amount of money he could get on the open market.