It was not hard to determine which team had won three in a row and was finding its stride and which team had lost six of seven games as their season hangs the balance. The Pittsburgh Penguins have now won four games in a row, and goalie Tristan Jarry is making it look easy.
The Penguins beat the lifeless Vancouver Canucks 4-1 at PPG Paints Arena.
Vancouver was supposed to be better than this. They’ve now lost 7 of 8 games. Only goalie Thatcher Demko kept the score respectable. He was brilliant in the first period before the Penguins buckled him in the second.
In the second period, Bryan Rust broke his goalless drought as the Penguins’ power play scored a rare goal, and Evan Rodrigues faked everyone to add to the Penguins lead.
Rust, who had not scored a goal since the season opener on Oct. 12 against Tampa Bay (12 games), was the happy recipient of a Vancouver PK breakdown. As former Penguins winger Tanner Pearson collapsed to the slot to cover Kris Letang, Rust was wide open in the left-wing circle.
Rust (2) ripped a short side wrister past Demko. It was just the Penguins seventh power-play goal this season.
Midway through the second period, Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes threw the puck just left of nowhere in the defensive zone. Evan Rodrigues (7) grabbed the loose puck in the left-wing circle, faked pass so well that everyone, including Demko, bought it, then snapped a top-shelf wrister.
It was Rodrigues’ 100th career point, and his 14 points are second on the team.
Later in the second period, she didn’t sell my monkey, but Zach Aston-Reese got a big one-off his back. With stiff defense at the top of the zone, Aston-Reese and Brock McGinn sprung a two-on-one.
Aston-Reese (1) also beat Demko short-side for his first goal this season. He couldn’t wipe the smile off his face for the remainder of the period.
Vancouver did push in the latter half of the second period, but Jarry is seeing beachballs. Jarry has allowed just one goal in the last three games.
Vancouver finally got one late in the third period. Bo Horvat (6) charged the net and deftly flipped a backhand over Jarry.
The Pittsburgh Penguins peppered Vancouver goalie Demko in the first period. Into the final minutes of the first period, the Penguins were outshooting Vancouver 16-6, and a few of those shots were scoring chances.
Sidney Crosby and Letang led the team with three shots, but the Penguins couldn’t crack Demko. The Penguins had an impressive 8-2 scoring chance advantage but didn’t light the lamp.
Tristan Jarry also had to make a few critical saves as the Penguins were also a bit careless with the puck. Jarry stuffed a couple of breakaways and point-blank chances.
The Penguins held Vancouver without a shot for the first 10 minutes of the third period. Jarry stopped 36 of 37 shots, and a few “Jarry” chants broke out in his honor.
Demko stopped 33 of 36 shots.
Brock McGinn (5) scored the empty netter.
The Penguins eased up in the latter half of the third period. Vancouver charged but didn’t posit much doubt in the outcome.
The Pittsburgh Penguins win put them a few points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and others in the wild-card race, though the Penguins have played two more games than most of their pursuers.