CRANBERRY — Brock McGinn scored the game-winning goals in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ victories in Washington and Toronto last week.
It was the first time he has recorded game-winners in consecutive games since he entered the NHL during the 2015-16 season.
And maybe even the first time since he entered the world, considering that after practice Monday, McGinn could not recall the last time he had managed that feat.
Oh, perhaps he did it while playing for Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League. Or the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. Or even the Orangeville Crushers in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
But if McGinn had, the memory didn’t stick with him.
“I definitely don’t (remember), no,” he said, laughing softly.
Whether he’ll ever match that career-first is hard to say — especially when talking about a guy who has just eight game-winners in 424 NHL games — and the degree-of-difficulty to do so nearly spiked dramatically Saturday night in Montreal, when McGinn’s goal at 14:02 of the third period staked the Penguins to a 4-3 lead.
The Canadiens, however, negated his go-ahead goal with a man-advantage score by Sean Monahan just 40 seconds later, and went on to win, 5-4, in overtime.
“It would have been nice, but unfortunately, they got one there on the power play,” McGinn said.
Although goal-scoring is not a major component of McGinn’s game — he has just 67 in his career and has scored as many as 16 in a season only once — he seems to have found an offensive touch since being bumped up to the third line, alongside Jeff Carter and Danton Heinen.
“He’s got a really good shot,” Heinen said. “His skating ability gives him opportunities, where he can get in there and use it.”
McGinn also seems to be a good complement to Carter and Heinen.
“I like (the line),” McGinn said. “I think we’re all working together really well.”
McGinn isn’t a threat to, say, supplant Jake Guentzel or Jason Zucker on one of the top two lines. Nonetheless, he should be able to be counted on to occasionally get involved in the offense.
“When I’m playing with speed and playing physical, I think I can create some space out there for my linemates,” he said. “Just hang on to more pucks and create some more plays.”
His recent burst of goal-scoring aside, McGinn is the prototype of an effective bottom-six forward. He’s industrious, responsible at both ends of the ice and is a capable penalty-killer.
While his average of 13 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time per game ranks 15th on the team, his average of 2:44 of shorthanded work is the most of any Penguins forward.
His penalty-killing ability is one of the qualities that prompted the Pittsburgh Penguins to pursue him as a free agent after his contract in Carolina expired in 2021. So far, McGinn said, his second season with the Penguins has been a lot like the first.
“I came in the same shape (as last year), put in the same work over the summer,” he said. “Right now, I’m confident in my game.”
And, most likely, in his ability to score a few more game-winners.