It’s a refrain often thrown at Pittsburgh Penguins forwards and, particularly, their power play participants. “Shoot the puck!” Perhaps it also could be aimed at goaltender Tristan Jarry.
That’s right. Goaltender Tristan Jarry.
If, of course, it’s the right time and circumstance.
Jarry found himself in that situation Thursday late in their game at Buffalo. The Penguins were up by two goals, and the Sabres had pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. Jarry got the puck and, seeing some daylight, heaved it toward the net at the far end.
The shot missed, but the play led to Bryan Rust’s empty-netter in a 5-2 win. Jarry picked up an assist.
Jarry, who could be described as above average with his stickhandling among goalies, said he picks his spots to launch a potential shot on net carefully.
“I think we have to be up by a couple because just in case it turns into an icing or something like that,” he said Friday after the Penguins practiced in Buffalo. “That gives you … I won’t say the best chance, but it’s not as high-stress as if we were up one goal. I think that’s kind of when I thought to do it.
“Just when you don’t see anybody in the middle of the ice – when they dump it in and there’s an opening in the middle I guess is the only opportunity.”
Longtime Penguins franchise goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, for as good as he was in net, could make you watch through your fingers with your hands covering your face when he played the puck around or, especially, behind his net. Despite that being an adventure, Fleury, now with Vegas, has attempted to shoot for an empty net many times over his career.
Penguins general manager Ron Hextall scored twice while with the Philadelphia Flyers, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs – and both on actual shots, not “own goals” he got credit for. In fact, he was the first NHL goalie to shoot and score:
Perhaps Jarry will be the first Penguins goaltender to score.
Jarry, who leads NHL goalies this season with three assists, has scored before. It was Nov. 14, 2018, while he was with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League:
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan didn’t fully endorse Jarry’s shot attempt Thursday, but he didn’t scold his goalie, either.
“Well, if (the situation) is relatively safe, I think he has the ability to play the puck,” Sullivan said. “For me, the most important thing is to get it out of the danger zone and defend first.
“We would ideally, in a perfect scenario, like our defensemen to be the guys that handle the puck, and that’s always the priority. But certainly Tristan’s a guy that plays the puck extremely well. He’s just got to use his intelligence and make sure that he’s putting the puck in a safe area.”
That’s a different tune from when Sullivan was asked in 2018-19 about Jarry potentially scoring for the NHL Penguins after his goal with Wilkes-Barre.
“I think we’ve got way more important things to think about rather than whether or not Tristan is going to score a goal,” Sullivan said somewhat tersely then. “We want him to make saves. We want him to make timely saves. We want to be hard to play against. We want to make sure we defend as a group of five – or six, for that matter – and then go from there.”
In fairness, at that stage Jarry had not performed to a level that might have fit his pedigree as a second-round draft pick in 2013 and had played in just 28 NHL games.
He since has said he changed his practice and off-ice habits, and he often credits his matriculation to the NHL full time to his work with goalie coach Mike Buckley. Jarry particularly came on last season, when he supplanted Matt Murray as the No. 1 goaltender and was named to the All-Star Game, allowing the Penguins to trade Murray to Ottawa.
Jarry said there is not now nor has there ever been any sort of wager among Penguins goaltenders involving who might score a goal.
But it’s a safe bet that, given the right time and circumstance, he probably will try for a goal again.
Marino Still Day To Day
In a bit of housekeeping, Sullivan said defenseman John Marino did not skate Friday. Sullivan continued to describe Marino as day to day because of an upper body injury.
Marino did not practice Wednesday in what Sullivan termed a maintenance day, and Marino then did not play Thursday in Buffalo.
Injured forwards Jason Zucker and Jared McCann remain in Pittsburgh.