Penguins Room: Jeff Carter Scores, ‘Couldn’t Care Less What You Guys Write’
DENVER — The Pittsburgh Penguins might have produced a season-saving win. And for a night, embattled center Jeff Carter played the hero.
The Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 at Ball Arena. Jeff Carter had two goals in a complete and clean Penguins effort.
The head-scratching mistakes did not appear. The third-period shakiness became confident pressure. Soft goals-against became the strongest Tristan Jarry performance in some time.
Following the Penguins dominating loss to the Ottawa Senators Monday, the Penguins built on their successes for their first win in five games and reclaimed the second wild-card spot from the Florida Panthers.
“We’ve been building habits all year long. It’s a matter of bringing them consistently. That’s the challenge,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “And when we do, I think you see an effort like tonight against one of the better teams in the league.”
Colorado isn’t just one of the better teams. They are the defending Stanley Cup champs and had won six in a row.
It seems every Pittsburgh Penguins fan and media person has wondered about Jeff Carter’s future, criticized his play, and sometimes both in the same sentence.
Wednesday, he served a small slice of humble pie with one of his best games this season. It was the second consecutive game in which his fourth line outchanced opponents and had greater puck possession, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. The same was true of the Ottawa loss, too.
Carter had not scored a goal since Feb. 26, against the Tampa Bay Lightning 13 games ago. Carter now has 11 goals and 26 points this season.
To add a little buzz to Carter’s night, his second goal was set up by fellow internet scourge Brian Dumoulin. Surely, there was a bit extra satisfaction this night and that goal?
“I couldn’t care less what you guys write, to be completely honest with you,” Carter said. “You can do whatever you want. The only thing that I care about is in here, and it’s a big win for us.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain scored one of those “Crosby” goals early in the second period to give the Penguins their first lead in over a week. He swept the puck through the defensemen’s legs, leaned on his edges, and whipped a backhand past goalie Alexandar Georgiev.
Crosby became the first player in NHL history to score 30 goals in a season at 18 years old and again at 35 years or older.
It would be more special if Penguins fans did not see 100 of those backhanders before. With their 17th consecutive playoff streak in increasing jeopardy, and the game a tense back-and-forth, Crosby’s goal propelled the Penguins.
Crosby doesn’t care if you call it “vintage.”
“I mean, as long as it goes in, you can call it what you want. That’s the main thing,” Crosby said. “We wanted to get a good start. They had some really good pressure. (Nathan MacKinnon) hit the crossbar, and (Colorado) had some chances. (Tristan Jarry) made some saves, so it’s good to get that first one and build off it.”
If you’ve ever wondered what a jovial softball interview was like behind the scenes, here you go. PHN chatted with Drew O’Connor, who broke a 10-game scoreless streak with an assist on Carter’s third period goal, but has been impressing with some of the best hockey of his career.
O’Connor had one of his best shifts immediately following the Avalanche’s first goal in the second period. The minutes following goals have been a Penguins’ soft spot this season. Teams have been able to rally against the Penguins or assume greater control of the game.
Wednesday, Ryan Poehling, Mikael Granlund, and O’Connor immediately seized momentum after the Avalanche tied the game 1-1. Poehling zipped a pass across the slot for O’Connor, whose one-timer looked like a sure goal.
Georgiev made a brilliant save. Nonetheless, it was a dominant shift and a high-danger scoring chance.
“It didn’t go in,” O’Connor lamented with a laugh.
His last goal was on March 2 against Tampa Bay, a span of 11 games.