PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the Winnipeg Jets from the first shift, yet it was the Penguins gritty, grounded play which had them fly past Winnipeg for their eighth straight win. Secondary scoring filled the net with goals from Olli Maatta, Matt Cullen and Dominik Simon and the Penguins beat Winnipeg in the official halfway point of the season,
The Penguins dominated the first period. They had six of the first seven shots and they scored the first two goals which were 31 seconds apart.
However, it took nearly 15 minutes for the Penguins to get their first goal. After Winnipeg lost count and was whistled for too many men on the ice, the Penguins second power-play unit scored. Offensive dynamo, or not, Olli Maatta scored his first goal of the season. His shot from near the blue line was deflected in the slot by Winnipeg penalty killer Jack Roslovic.
“We played really solid today,” said Maatta. “I don’t think we gave them a lot.”
The goal wasn’t pretty but that counts, too. And never was that truer than the Penguins second goal, too. Before arena-voice extraordinaire Ryan Mills could announce the goal, the Penguins struck again.
The Penguins fourth line did the damage. Zach Aston-Reese neatly sidestepped a poke-check in the slot. His shot was deflected and fluttered towards the goal in slow-motion. The puck hit Penguins center Matt Cullen (4) on the shoulder and bounced into the net behind Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
The Penguins applied more offensive pressure in the second period and fired 15 shots.
In the second period, the crowd chanted “Goal! Goal! Goal,” as Toronto reviewed Simon’s chip-shot late in the period. The Penguins executed a picturesque three-on-two which culminated in Evgeni Malkin’s cross-ice pass to Simon (6) whose backhand chip hit the post and settled into Hellebuyck’s glove. However, after a review and a Wayne’s World Extreme Closeup, it was determined the rotating puck did indeed cross the line as it was gloved.
“I didn’t know for sure if it was in until I saw it on the board,” Simon said.
Kris Letang (10) scored the empty net goal with over three minutes remaining.
Matt Murray has been great during the Penguins win streak, but he was not often called upon, Friday. Murray made 33 saves for the shutout win.
“Right now, he exudes so much confidence,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “Hopefully he can continue to build on these games.”
Winnipeg forward Nikolaj Ehlers left the game early in the first period with an undisclosed injury.
The Penguins power play had scored on nine of its last 11 chances before failing to score on a second-period power play. Derick Brassard hit the post on the second power-play chance if you want to count that.