Penguins Grades: Breaking Down a Resounding Win with a Few Slick Plays (+)
The Pittsburgh Penguins won and stayed one point ahead of the Florida Panthers in the wild-card race. The Penguins had a third period lead, too, but instead of squandering it, they added to it without high-risk hockey. They even defended well, as they clamped down on the Nashville Predators, 2-0, at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins kept the pressure on Nashville throughout the third, leaving little doubt by late in the period about how the game would end. It was a stark departure from the mistake-filled third periods of recent games that gave away the Penguins’ advantage in the standings.
Tristan Jarry returned to the Penguins’ net. He wasn’t called upon often but was stellar when the bell rang, including a couple of good third period saves to preserve the shutout.
They looked like a playoff team.
And noted offensive defenseman Brian Dumoulin made the pass of the game, easily the pass of Dumoulin’s season. He set up Jason Zucker with a toe-drag deke and soft pass to Zucker for a tap-in.
“That’s a Norris Trophy-winning pass right there. Unbelievable. Great play by Geno. Great play by Dumo,” Zucker said with a grin. “So, it was nice to have a little tap in.
“I trusted that the whole time. I knew he was going to go toe-drag backdoor tap-in. So I told him that I was just waiting for it.”
Dumoulin joked that Zucker owed him a bottle of wine. Given Dumoulin’s expertise in the subject, it probably won’t be Boone’s Farm wine.
The Penguins’ third period was worthy of dissection, as was their ability to deal with the Nashville trap in the first period. The Detroit Red Wings trapped the Penguins with a 1-3-1 on Tuesday, and the Penguins spotted them three goals.
There was no such generosity with the puck Thursday. Instead, the Penguins — get this — played patient, structured hockey and used their speed to get the edges and held the puck in the low zone. The chalkboard and report card is full of the stuff the team, fans (and media) have been waiting for.