The Pittsburgh Penguins (22-12-6) are arguably the hottest team in the NHL outside of Tampa Bay. The Penguins have won nine their last 10 games and seven straight. They are currently second in the Metropolitan Division and trail the Washington Capitals by a single point for the top spot. The Penguins also have teams breathing down their neck as the Columbus Blue Jackets trail the Penguins by only one point and the New York Islanders are only two points behind. New York and Columbus both have one game in hand on the Penguins.
The Penguins host the Winnipeg Jets (25-12-2) tonight at PPG Paint Arena
Wednesday, the Penguins scored first and then scored often as they burned past the New York Rangers, 7-2. Seven different Penguins scored including Kris Letang (9) who netted the game-winning goal late in the 2nd period. Starting goalie Matt Murray won his sixth straight start. Murray stopped 28 of 30 shots and was sparkling to to keep the game scoreless after the Penguins’ lackluster first period.
Newly minted 2019 All-Star Sidney Crosby had a goal and assist to raise his team-leading point total 50 (19g, 31a). The Penguins chased Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist early in the 3rd period. Lundqvist made only 12 saves on 18 shots. He was replaced by Alexandar Georgiev, who stopped six of seven shots.
Winnipeg last played on Dec. 31 against the Edmonton Oilers. Winnipeg rode a three-goal second period to a 4-3 win. The Jets were led by a two-goal performance from Brendan Lemieux (2,3). Blake Wheeler (6) and Brandon Tanev (8), also scored. Connor Hellebuyck started for the Jets and stopped 21 of 24 shots for his 17th win. Leon Draisaitl (20, 21) scored two goals for Edmonton. Conner McDavid had two assists. McDavid is third overall in league scoring.
Notes: Goaltending has been key for the Penguins. Since returning from injury on Dec. 15, Matt Murray is 6-0 with a 1.48 GAA and a .955 save percentage. Casey DeSmith is 2-1 with a 2.02 GAA and .943 save percentage in that time. Penguins winger Bryan Rust is three points away from 100 in his five-year career.
The Penguins power play has scored on eight of the last 10 chances. The Penguins are now clicking at 27 percent (30 for 111). Last year, the Penguins led the NHL and established a franchise record 26.2 percent conversion rate.
Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck earned his 100th career win on Dec. 31. He is the 23rd U.S. born goaltender to accomplish the feat.
Justin Schultz (Fractured Leg. IR)
Dustin Byfuglien (Lower Body)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||23.7%, 4th NHL||77.4%, 27th NHL|
|New York Islanders||18.8%, 21st NHL||83.7%, 6th NHL|
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jason Zucker||Frederick Gaudreau||Evan Rodrigues|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|