The two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, which began the day outside of a playoff seed, received a much-needed slice of home cooking, Saturday. The Penguins had a strong start and took full advantage of a favorable penalty call late in the first period, as they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2, Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Penguins backup goalie Tristan Jarry made a handful of big saves to earn his first NHL win. “It’s special, really special” beamed Jarry in postgame comments.
in the first period and the Penguins scored four special teams goals, one shorthanded and three 5-on-3 goals. Yes, three. (We’re checking, that may be the first time, ever. Penguins historian and Pittsburgh Hockey Now columnist Bob Grove is looking into it, and has not yet found another instance).
Bryan Rust scored his second short-handed goal of the season, his third goal overall, at 14:36 of the first period. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry poked a rebound past an oncoming hoard of players and Rust did the rest.
Rust had a 100 foot breakaway against Lightning backup goalie Peter Budaj. Rust didn’t disappoint the hometown crowd. 1-0.
A few minutes later, Lightning forward Cedric Paquette earned a double minor for high sticking by drawing blood from Sidney Crosby. Then, the Penguins got a break. A big one.
Just over a minute later, Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman was whistled for tripping Conor Sheary. It was a judgment call which gave the Penguins a full two minute 5-on-3 power-play.
Just 20 seconds after the Stralman call, Phil Kessel (10) finished Patric Hornqvist’s hard work for a power-play goal. Hornqvist muscled Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi off the puck in front of the Tampa Bay goal, before Girardi could clear it.
Hornqvist to Crosby who quickly slid a cross-ice pass to Kessel (10) who hit the wide-open net. 2-0.
In fact, the Penguins scored so quickly, they maintained their 5-on-3 advantage because the first minor to Paquette had not yet expired. The had plenty of time and another opportunity to victimize Girardi.
With just 34 seconds remaining in the period Kris Letang intercepted Girardi’s clearing attempt. After a couple quick passes, Sidney Crosby (8) tipped Phil Kessel’s shot. 3-0.
Phil Kessel broke up the two-man advantage monotony with a breakaway goal, just a couple minutes into the second period. Credit Penguins center Riley Sheahan for a strong backcheck on the Lightning rush. Sheahan got between Lightning captain Steve Stamkos and the net.
As Victor Hedman’s pass bounced off Stamkos in the slot, Sheahan quickly zipped the headman pass to Kessel in full stride at center ice. Another breakaway, another Kessel goal (11). Budaj didn’t have a prayer. 4-0.
The Lightning broke Jarry’s (That’s pronounced JAR-ee) shutout six minutes into the second period. Just nine seconds after Phil Kessel was called for slashing, Ondrej Palat deflected a Mikhail Sergachev point shot.
Jarry (pronounced JAR-ee) made another three big saves to keep the Lightning off the board and the Penguins rolling. (I’m just teasing Pens fans, Lord knows I’ve mangled more than my share of names…).
In the first period, Jarry stopped NHL leading scorer Steve Stamkos on a breakaway (Stamkos got behind Brian Dumoulin at center ice) and Jarry displayed incredible lateral movement later in the second period when he smothered NHL leading goal scorer Nikita Kucherov’s one-timer.
The Penguins crowd actually (mis)pronounced Jarry’s name correctly as the chants rained down from the rafters (It’s pronounced “JAR-ee” though the NHL pronunciation guide lists it as JAIR-ee. And Jarry has Tom&Jerry cartoon figures on his mask. Go figure).
Early in the third period, Crosby scored his second of the game (9) and the Penguins third 5-on-3 goal of the game. After rookie defenseman, Mikhail Sergachev was called for interference, and Girardi was called for closing his hand on the puck–Crosby whipped it past Budaj, from the right wing circle. 5-1. Game. Set. Match.
Corey Conacher added a garbage time goal late in the third period as Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta and Sheahan converged on the puck behind the Penguins net, leaving Conacher wide open in front. Alex Killorn’s backhand pass evaded the defenders. 5-2.
The struggling Penguins penalty kill nullified five of the six Lightning chances. The PK unit was good, but Jarry was the star.
Overall, the Penguins were three of five on the power-play.
Kessel had four points (2g, 2a), including his breakaway goal early in the second period. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan praised Kessel and said it’s the best regular season hockey he has played for the Penguins.
“His daily habits are so good right now, and I think it’s translating into the game situations,” said Sullivan. And, on the breakaway goal, Sullivan said simply, “that’s a goal scorer’s goal.”