The news was overwhelmingly positive at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday night. The Pittsburgh Penguins beat a playoff team. Hats rained on the ice as Jake Guentzel scored a hat trick and his 40th goal of the season. Casey DeSmith set a career-high with 52 saves, and the Penguins’ two points put them ahead of the Washington Capitals for third place.
Or those two points tied them with Boston for the first wild card.
However, the bad news came in the postgame presser. Head coach Mike Sullivan said Penguins center Jeff Carter was being evaluated for a lower-body injury.
Update: Jeff Carter practiced on Friday, but Jason Zucker was absent.
Casey DeSmith, History
DeSmith was pretty, pretty good on Thursday night in the Penguins 4-0 win. He set a Pittsburgh Penguins Team record with a 52-save shutout.
“I’ve I felt like I’m up to the task. So obviously, 52 save shutout always builds the confidence a little bit, you know, but coming into this game, I felt like I was prepared,” DeSmith said. “(I’ve) been working for this moment for a long time to step in there in case something happened to Jarrs. And I’m just happy to help the team get some wins.”
According to Penguins historian and all-around good guy Bob Grove, only four goalies in NHL history have posted more saves in a shutout:
Ben Scrivens, Edm, 59 v SJ, Jan. 29, 2014.
Mike Smith, Phoe, 54 v CBJ, April 3, 2012
Semyon Varlamov, Col, 54 @ Chi, Jan. 6, 2015
Craig Anderson, Fla, 53 @ NYI, March 2, 2008
And former Penguins goalie, and former Penguins-saves-in-a-shutout record holder, JS Aubin, gave a shoutout.
I want to congratulate for not only braking my record of 45 saves shootout at home vs Dallas in early 2000’s but destroying it with 52 saves last night well deserved and well done Casey Desmith and @penguins 👑
— JS Aubin (@Aubs301) April 22, 2022
Aubin was the unfortunate master of making 44 saves and losing 3-2 on a fluky goal in the third period. After one such night in which the game-winner bounced off a defenseman’s butt or helmet or other unstoppable nonsense, the goalie looked at this young reporter and shook his head, “I don’t know why this stuff happens to me.”
DeSmith was very good. The Penguins “allowed” 52 shots, but as noted in the PHN+ Report Card, the Penguins did not let Boston get second chances or a lot of Grade A chances.
“I was really happy with how I tracked the puck through traffic. They got a lot of pucks through, but they like to get a lot of bodies to the net. My rebound control was good, too,” DeSmith said of his performance.
Don’t underestimate what confidence can do for a goalie.
“I thought we just kept them to the outside, and I think that was kind of our game plan to continue to get in the house and work off from there,” Jake Guentzel said. “I thought we did a good job and tried to get Casey to see the puck as much as possible, and obviously, he played phenomenal.”
Jake Guentzel popped his second 40-goal season. There was some excitement when Guentzel arrived in 2017. A winger for Sid! But he’s not faster than others. Not stronger. He was supposed to be a nice 20-goal complement to Crosby.
Then he scored 30… wow, OK. Then, 40. Holy cow.
“You put a lot of time and effort into this game, and just to score goals in this league, it’s pretty special. And I’m fortunate to play along really good players, and we just have a good sounding crew with coaches and teammates and staff. So it’s just a cool milestone…,” Guentzel said.
Per Penguins game notes, Guentzel joined an elite club of Penguins players who hit 40 multiple times. Mario Lemieux (10x), Jaromir Jagr (5x), Kevin Stevens (4x), Jean Pronovost (4x), Evgeni Malkin (3x), Sidney Crosby (2x), and Mike Bullard (2x). Only Crosby and Malkin have accomplished the feat in the 21st century.
“I think he’s quietly emerged as one of the superstars in the league. I think he’s one of the best goal scorers in the league. He shows it year in and year out…I think it’s a credit to his competitiveness. It’s a credit to his talent level. It’s a credit to how hard he works to keep his game at such a high level,” Sullivan said. “He’s just a great hockey player. That’s what I think. He’s just a great hockey player. He’s got a high hockey IQ and is ultra-competitive for a guy that’s not physically imposing in any way…He plays the game really big. (Guentzel) goes to the hard areas where you pay the price to get opportunities to score. He’s undeterred, and he’s relentless in those areas…”
Guentzel also set a person a best with his 81st point, assuring he will score more than a point per game in a full 82-game NHL season for the first time. (He scored 43 points in 39 games in 2019-20 and 57 in the 56-game season last year).
His next goal will be his career-best.
Pittsburgh Penguins Power Play:
Oh, it was really good on Thursday. They got only one chance, but it was a blitzkrieg. We counted five high-danger chances. Sullivan said six. It was hard to argue.
“That’s as good as the power play we’ve had in a long time. If I’m not mistaken, we had close to six scoring chances in that two-minute span. And so when those guys are are walked in like that, I just think it’s a matter of time, and it was amazing to me that the puck didn’t go in the net,” Sullivan said.
The Penguins did something unique on the power play.
They shot it.
And shot it.
The crowd cheered instead of yelling, “shoooot!”
They quickly scrambled Boston’s PK but didn’t slow down or let up. The top power-play unit didn’t make more than a few passes before the next shot. They backed in the PK, and the shots got closer and closer. There were no flatfooted spectators.
Shelly Anderson has practice coverage today. She’ll have the latest on Jeff Carter.