WINNIPEG, Manitoba — It took more than 40 minutes for the Pittsburgh Penguins (8-7-3) to light the lamp. And when they finally did, Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker continued piling up points. Zucker and Malkin worked a little give-and-go at the top of the Winnipeg Jets (10-5-1) zone, which ended when Zucker blasted a one-timer past Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
In the two minutes, Sidney Crosby, who had four points on Thursday, intercepted Hellebuyck’s pass to no one and fed Bryan Rust (5) for the wrister into a yawning cage. In the final seconds, Rust assisted on Jake Guentzel’s (10) empty net goal. On Saturday, the Penguins beat the Jets, 3-0, at Canada Life Centre. The win was the Penguins’ second in a row.
Guentzel is tied for the league lead in empty net goals with Alex Ovechkin (4).
Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, who won his first game in nearly one month on Thursday, struggled with his first shot. Moments into the first period, Jarry remained in the down position, but the puck lay beside him, not under his pads. Players fought to the net for the loose puck before Marcus Pettersson cleared it from danger. Jarry settled down and turned aside all 13 first-period shots, and 32 overall. Jarry earned his first shutout win of the season and the 12th of his career.
“Yeah, I thought the guys did a great job their box out early, and it allowed me to see a lot of pucks,” Jarry said. “I saw tips well. I thought I played well positionally.”
The Penguins’ place in the standings is precarious from day to day. Before the puck dropped, the Penguins were at the top of a four-team gaggle, three points behind the second wild-card New York Rangers. The win pushed the Penguins to just one point behind New York.
Zucker scored his fifth goal of the season and 15th point in 16 games.
The Winnipeg cold not only tested everyone’s knit caps, but Winnipeg tested the Penguins’ patience and willingness to play a structured, sound game. Through two periods, the Penguins remained largely on top of the puck and in control of their own game.
The Pittsburgh Penguins passed the test.
“I think when those things are happening, everybody just goes over the boards knowing what their job is, knowing what needs to be done, and we can be on our toes,” Bryan Rust said.
Rust snapped his seven-game scoreless streak.
After 40 minutes, the shots were nearly even, 23-21 for Winnipeg, and the high-danger scoring chances were even, 7-7. Evgeni Malkin was dangerous in the offensive zone, though he failed to connect on an extra pass to set up a sure-thing goal until Zucker’s marker in the third. Malkin led all players after two periods with five shots through two periods.
The final shot clock was even, 32-32.
Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck had the more difficult task. Despite the paper stats, Hellebuyck had to make a handful of tough saves, and close down a few rebound chances, too. He stopped all 21 shots through 40 minutes.
Crosby and Guentzel had several whacks on the edge of the Winnipeg crease in the opening minutes, but neither could direct the puck into the net. Crosby and Guentzel continued to buzz around the net, but neither was able to get the clean look they needed.
Saturday afternoon, Winnipeg announced that winger Nikolaj Ehlers is out indefinitely for sports hernia surgery.