PITTSBURGH — It took more than 60 minutes for a Pittsburgh Penguins (18-10-4)score. The Penguins dominated the puck early in overtime and defenseman Kris Letang drew a hooking penalty. Bryan Rust scored his 10th goal of the season on the ensuing power play and the Penguins finally broke the scoreless deadlock for a 1-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets (12-14-5) Thursday at PPG Paints Arena.
Jarry stopped 17 shots for his third shutout in four starts.
Defense was the mandate for both the Penguins and Columbus, or perhaps it was just a lack of offense. The Penguins played without de facto top-line center Evgeni Malkin who missed the game due to illness. Penguins winger Jake Guentzel took over the top spot but neither team scored in the first 60 minutes and even shots were hard to find.
“We didn’t have a lot of options,” Sullivan laughed about using Guentzel at center. Guentzel was over 50% on faceoffs.
The OT power play is a rare thing, too.
“We were just trying to get a little bit of movement and open up some one-timers,” Rust said.
The Penguins sought to simplify their game without a first-line center. The first period wasn’t an elegant scene but the Penguins were effective. In addition to allowing just six shots on Tristan Jarry, the Penguins earned a pair of power plays and kept the pressure on Columbus for much of the period. Teddy Blueger had a couple of good chances, as did temporary top-line center Guentzel.
However, the Penguins lacked a great second chance and a bit of finish.
“Offensively he probably has more confidence now than he’s ever had. He’s seeing it,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
Jarry stuffed Oliver Bjorkstrand on a breakaway early in the first period. That was the best chance for either team in the first two periods. Jarry again stuffed Bjorkstrand on a breakaway early in the third period.
However, the offensive fireworks were delayed beyond the second period, too. Columbus managed just five shots in the middle period and the Penguins fired off just six. Columbus didn’t pressure the Penguins with much regularity, including on a power play late in the period after Penguins defenseman Marcus Petterson took down Sonny Milano to prevent another breakaway chance.
The almost-breakaway was the second period highlight for both teams. Otherwise, the sweaters weren’t the only ugly things on display. The teams did combine for a healthy number of hits. Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson had eight on Tuesday night against Montreal. Brandon Tanev and Columbus grinder Josh Anderson each had six checks in the first 40 minutes.
According to NaturalStattrick.com, the Penguins also held Columbus to just one high-danger scoring chance in the first two periods.
The reigns loosened in the third period. Each team had a couple of chances and Jarry was again called upon to nullify a Columbus breakaway when he stoned Pierre-Luc Dubois early in the third period.
Blueger also had a breakaway in the third period, but Columbus netminder Joonas Korpisalo denied him, too.
According to Penguins historian Bob Grove, the Penguins were 12-1-4 in their last 17 games which were tied 0-0 after two periods.