The Pittsburgh Penguins are now in sole possession of first place of the MassMutual East Division. The Penguins’ extra point against the Washington Capitals on Thursday created a tie atop the division. In the rematch on Saturday, Bryan Rust scored a pair of unassisted goals, and goalie Tristan Jarry did his best impersonation of the secret service as he fully protected the Penguins lead. The Penguins impeached the formerly first-place Washington Capitals, 3-0 at the Capital One Arena on Saturday night.
Jarry stopped all 23 shots he faced.
“He was he was fantastic. There was a whole lot of chances that we gave up in the second period. And he was unbelievable, diving around, making great saves,” Rust said. “You can see it. He’s just calm, cool, and confident in there right now.”
The Penguins won six of eight games against Washington this season, which is the first time in the Penguins history they won six games in a single regular season against Washington.
The Penguins were without Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Tanev, who did not play. Washington forged ahead without captain Alex Ovechkin and top defenseman John Carlson.
The Penguins did have an unfortunate incident. Later in the second period, defenseman Mike Matheson, an offensive revelation, was hit just below the visor by Jarry’s clearing attempt. He skated off under his own power but was not available for the third period.
“It was tough to see Mikey go down. Just took fluck puck off the face. It changes things up a little bit,” Matheson’s defense partner Cody Cedi said. “You get different partners, you’re playing a little more. So we just tried to keep it simple. We had the lead and we were just trying to keep the lead, play smart and keep (shifts) short.“
The Penguins got the first bounce and first break of good fortune. A few minutes into the game, Washington forward Garnett Hathaway cycled to the point to play a pass but instead stumbled. Bryan Rust (21) seized upon the opportunity for a breakaway goal and deftly deked Washington netminder Ilya Samsonov. 1-0.
That was Rust’s career goal, No. 99.
Early in the second period, Rust earned another breakaway. He blocked a shot at the top of the zone then blew past defenders for another breakaway. Rust (22) again deked. This time Rust went backhand to forehand and scored the Penguins’ second goal and second unassisted marker.
That was Rust’s career goal, No. 100. Not bad for a third-round pick from Notre Dame who was little more than the Pittsburgh Penguins fourth-line speed depth player when he made his NHL debut in 2016, eh?
“He understands how to play to his strengths. He’s developed his offensive game as good as any young player that I’ve been around as a coach in 20 something years and coaching in this league,” Mike Sullivan gushed. “So I can’t say enough about Rusty and what he brings to this team.”
Midway through the second period, Kris Letang and Jeff Carter padded their offensive totals. Carter won an offensive zone faceoff back to Letang, and Carter went to the net. Letang’s shot hit Carer’s skate in front of the net, and Carter (12) smiled after held his skate firm at the proper angle to deflect the shot.
The goal was Carter’s sixth point in eight games.
Washington only had 11 shots on goal through the first 30 minutes, but several were high-grade scoring chances. Penguins Tristan Jarry and his glove were exceedingly sharp, too.
“He played awesome for us tonight. We got a little loose toward the end of the second period, a couple of long shifts couldn’t get off the ice. So he made some big saves for us and and shut the door there,” Cody Ceci said. “And then we tried to help him out in third a little better.”
Washington really blitzed the Penguins net in the last 10 minutes of the second period, but Jarry was spectacular. He made 10-bell saves on several rushes and defensive breakdowns, including a couple on Lars Eller in front, Anthony Mantha on the rush, and Michael Raffl, too.
In the final minutes of the second period, Washington peppered Jarry with seven shots on goal. None had a chance.
Jarry continued to be impenetrable in the third period, too. Tom Wilson, who was wearing the A for Washington, slipped behind the Penguins defense or quasi-breakaway, but Jarry kicked the puck away.
However, the Pittsburgh Penguins settled their game and took the next nine shots on goal. The Penguins received only two power plays, the second was Tom Wilson’s crosscheck on Teddy Bleuger in the final minutes, which eliminated any remote chance for a Washington comeback.
Samsonov stopped 24 of 27 shots and Washington’s goalie situation remains unsettled before the playoffs.
PHN’s 3 Stars:
The Penguins center led the fourth line to a dominant performance. Gaudreau’s line had seven scoring chances but yielded just one. A fourth line able to push the puck into the offensive zone and keep it there means the next line starts in the O-zone, and the Capitals have to skate 200 feet for a scoring chance.
Probably the Penguins best forward. Blocking shots. Scoring goals. Rust is on his game.
The Penguins have a hot goalie. Pad saves. Rebound control. He couldn’t be beaten on Saturday. The Capitals had at least a half dozen point-blank chances. None shall pass.