The 60 minutes of hockey at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night had every chance to begin the swan song of the Pittsburgh Penguins core. Instead, it was a symphony of forechecking, offensive pressure, and goaltending. Islanders coach Barry Trotz was measuring for drapes to live rent-free within the Penguins’ heads but was instead reminded of the Penguins teams that sent his teams packing in the first two series he coached against them.
And the fans at PPG absolutely rocked the house. The 50% capacity should have been about 9,000 but it surely sounded like there were plenty more.
I checked with my friends in low places around the arena. They know every goings-on, and not even they knew the attendance number.
In case you missed the pre-game video of the crowd, listen to this place. It was so loud that my cell phone metered the sound just a bit.
Chants of “Let’s Go Pens” were frequent, just as there were several “Jarry” chants, too. Every save brought a cheer. Every shift with offensive pressure brought an ovation. It was a master class on attending games.
I’m sure the fans in attendance appreciated being there. If I’m not mistaken, the fans were also trying to pump Jarry’s tires, too. That’s classic Pittsburgh Penguins fandom. I’ve seen that sort of behavior from Penguins fans before–try to boost a guy before you kick him.
“It was that was pretty cool to be a part of, you know? The building was going crazy. Any time you look up and see those towels spinning with that many people in the building, especially with everything going on in the world,” defenseman Mike Matheson said. “The fact that we haven’t been able to have everybody in the building through this season– to see that gives you chills and really puts a spark and in our team. And so it was amazing to have all the fans being such a big part of the game.”
Jarry got stronger as the game went on, too. Give yourselves a round of applause.
Head coach Mike Sullivan noted the crow, too:
“It was electric. It’s so exciting that it seems like it’s been so long that we’ve had that amount of fans in the building. And that’s the most we’ve had to this point. And I know our players–they feed off it,” Sullivan said. They love the energy the fan base brings. I think it helped us with the start that we had tonight. It’s just such a great environment. It’s not the same when they’re not there. And certainly, I know I know our players in our whole organization, for that matter, are appreciative of the support.”
There isn’t a question that Jarry was shaky in the first period. He made the saves, and the Pittsburgh Penguins shielded him in the first 15 minutes. He faced only four shots. But he kicked rebounds into the circle, shots bounced off him into the slot, and he looked unsteady.
A few big saves provided a confidence boost and the Jarry chants probably registered, too. Jarry stopped 37 of 38 shots, and by the third period, he looked like the Tristan Jarry who earned the Penguins starting job.
“I thought Tristan had a great game. He’s done that for us for most of this year, and he’s been a big part of the success that this team has enjoyed to this point,” Sullivan said. “Our players, our coaching staff, our management team, we have the ultimate faith in Tristan. He’s a terrific goaltender, and he’s shown it time and time again. There was no doubt in my mind that he was going to come back and have a solid effort. And that’s what he did for us tonight.”
Mike Matheson said it more succinctly.
“He was so solid for us. I mean, all game long, not just down the stretch. He was making big save after big save. And that’s the Tristan Jarry that we all know and love.”
Things were going so well for the Pittsburgh Penguins fourth line with Teddy Blueger in the middle that you may have noticed Blueger’s spin-o-rama attempt in the second period.
Brandon Tanev hit anything and everything that moved.
Zach Aston-Reese was Dirt Devil on the wall and went to the net.
“They bring energy. They’re three players that are really tough to play against, especially as a defenseman on the forecheck,” Matheson said. “They all have great speed, play a physical hard game, cycle the puck well. They support each other well and just really work like crazy…”
Those are the good things in the offensive zone. But the work the trio did defensively changed the game. You may not have noticed top New York center Mathew Barzal as much. Or Kyle Palmieri. That’s because the Penguins’ “fourth line” blanketed them like Linus.
The shift chart shows the Blueger line alternated matchups against Barzal and Pageau. The Sidney Crosby line also matched up against Barzal and handily won the battle.
Against Barzal and Pageau, the Penguins line smothered each. Barzal’s line had just one scoring chance in the game. That’s a stick tap to both Crosby and Blueger. Palmieri didn’t have many big moments and was held without a shot after scoring a pair of goals in Game 1.
That’s not a bad ace to have up your sleeve.
Odds & Ends:
Sidney Crosby is a throwback star; a superstar who jumps to the defense of his teammates. Knows how to dish a little pain behind the play, and is solid as a horse.
Jeff Carter’s line has to tighten up in the defensive zone. Look for Barry Trotz to come at them in New York. But it sure helps when you can score a goal, as Carter did in Game 2.
Jared McCann is still without his first playoff goal. His assist in Game 2 brought his point total to three assists in eight games. When he pops that first one, look out.
John Marino is playing more physically than I’ve seen before. I like it.