Penguins Room: DeSmith ‘Pretty Calm’; Crosby a Real Hit
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Casey DeSmith has earned four shutouts in his 122 career appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For much of Tuesday evening, it looked like he was on the cusp of No. 5.
DeSmith faced 39 shots from San Jose during the Penguins’ 3-1 victory at the SAP Center, and stopped the first 37 of them.
But Timo Meier spoiled his shutout chances with 4:03 to go in the third period, when he burst down the left side, then drove to the net before sliding a shot between DeSmith’s legs to slice the Penguins’ lead to 2-1.
“I wish I could have that one back, for sure,” DeSmith said.
Ultimately, the only thing the Meier goal cost the Penguins was DeSmith’s potential shutout, as Jake Guentzel removed any suspense about the outcome by scoring into an empty net with 37.9 seconds to go in regulation.
There’s no shame in giving up a goal to Meier — he’s scored 31 of them this season — and the reality is that DeSmith, who had been pulled during the second period of the Penguins’ 6-0 loss at Los Angeles Saturday after giving up three goals on 15 shots, looked like he expected to stop everything that came at him Tuesday.
Which is pretty much what he did.
“I felt pretty calm in there,” DeSmith said. “Every game is different. I felt like my stick play was good tonight. Just kind of try to be a third defenseman out there. But I thought we did a good job in front of our net. There weren’t a lot of rebounds, and stuff like that.”
And when there were, DeSmith was there to stop them. Along with just about everything else.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were credited with 20 hits in the win over San Jose.
Sidney Crosby wasn’t credited with any during the final 56-plus minutes of the game.
It’s probably just as well, because it’s unlikely he could have topped the one he delivered to Sharks forward Michael Eyssimont just over three minutes into the opening period.
Crosby absolutely crushed him in the neutral zone, a pretty good indication of how intent Crosby was about leading his team back after its humbling 6-0 defeat in Los Angeles Saturday.
Crosby said that hit wasn’t intended to deliver a message, that “I just kind of lined him up.”
OK, but in the process, he made it clear that he appreciates the perilous situation the Penguins are in in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Beating San Jose allowed them to move past Washington and into fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and seventh in the Eastern standings, but the Capitals, New York Islanders, Florida, Buffalo and Detroit all could overtake them if the Penguins stumble during what’s left of the regular season.
“You don’t want to be in this position, per se,” he said. “You’d love to be where (league-leading) Boston is, but that’s not the reality. I think that should bring out the best in us. … There are points where you’re playing these games out, and there’s a different mentality.
“This is a mentality where every point matters, and every game from here on in is really important. We have to embrace that and use that to our advantage, the best we can.”
Crosby finished the game with three assists, but the one he got on the first of Jake Guentzel’s two goals got all of the attention after the game.
Crosby, going right to left, carried the puck behind the San Jose net, seemingly intent on trying to score on a wraparound at the left post.
But while he was about in the middle of the net, Crosby backhanded a pass to Guentzel, who was unchecked near the right post.
“Right on my tape,” Guentzel said. “You just have to be ready when you’re with him. He made a nice play.”
Guentzel’s shot went off the skate of Sharks goalie Aaron Dell and into the net, and turned out to be the game-winner. He added an empty-netter with 37.9 seconds left in the third period for his first two-goal game since Jan. 20.
While the Pittsburgh Penguins’ performance had more than a few flaws, most involving poor defensive decision-making and execution, Guentzel noted that the statistic that matters most — the only one that matters, really — ended up in their favor.
“Not our best tonight,” he said. “But we found a way to get two points. That’s what matters.”