It’s been a year of milestones for Pittsburgh Penguins players including Matt Cullen’s 1500th game and Evgeni Malkin’s 1000th point. It wasn’t te prettiest goal but Jake Guentzel added two more with his 40th goal late in the third period Saturday night.
With the Penguins trailing by a goal in the final minutes and needing at least a point to clinch third place and avoid a Round One war with the Washington Capitals, Guentzel slammed a rebound through bodies to tie the game. His 40th marker.
Not a bad accomplishment for a player that was ripped in his pre-draft scouting report for not possessing enough “offensive tools.”
Looks like the toolbox is pretty full, eh?
“I could see Sid battling and I was just kind of waiting backdoor to see what would happen. I was fortunate, the puck bounced out to me,” Guentzel said.
The goal tied the game with the New York Islanders 3-3 and prevented the Penguins from falling to the first wildcard spot which would have meant a Round One series with Washington. That the Penguins lost in OT seems inconsequential.
“Obviously exciting. Not how I wanted the third period to go for myself. Just to get that one … a lot of emotion,” Guentzel said. “Just to get that one and a big point for us.”
Guentzel joined an elite corp of Penguins players to accomplish the 40-goal feat. He becomes just the 20th Penguins player to hit the 40-goal mark and first winger since James Neal in 2011-12. Guentzel also vaulted into the top 10 NHL goal-scoring leaders this season.
Guentzel led the Penguins in goal scoring and joined Chris Kunitz as the only players not named Crosby or Evgeni Malkin to lead the team during the Crosby/Malkin Era. Kunitz scored a team-high 21 goals during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Oh by the way, Crosby tallied his 100th point of the season on Guentzel’s milestone setting goal.
Here is a look at Guentzel’s career thus far entering Saturday.
Guentzel joined the Penguins as the 77th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and has proven to be quite the find in the third round. Guentzel made his NHL debut on November 21, 2016, against the New York Rangers, where he scored two goals on his first two shots. The Penguins, however, wasted the effort and dropped the game 5–2.
Guentzel comes from a hockey family. His father, Mike, was a standout player for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Mike Guentzel was the associate head coach at the University of Minnesota till he moved on to the Arizona Coyotes in 2018. Jake was a stick boy for the team when current Penguins teammate Phil Kessel played for Minnesota in 2005. I guess some of that famous Kessel magic rubbed off on Jake.