It wasn’t immediately clear who deserved credit for the power play goal the Pittsburgh Penguins scored early in the third period of their 4-0 victory against Buffalo Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena.
The goal initially was credited to Sidney Crosby, who was set up near the Sabres’ net and seemed to get his stick on a shot from the center point by Erik Karlsson.
A subsequent scoring change gave the goal to Karlsson, after replays showed his shot actually had struck Buffalo defenseman Erik Johnson on its way into the net.
Karlsson disavowed any knowledge of whether it was he or Crosby who was responsible for the goal.
“I don’t know,” Karlsson said. “And I don’t really care who, either. It was nice that we got one, because we were talking about making a play like that. It worked out. That’s all that matters.”
That goal gave the Penguins a 3-0 lead, and gave them a chokehold on what would become their fourth consecutive victory. Karlsson suggested that having a veteran club, as the Penguins do, is at least part of the reason they’ve been able to rebound from a 3-6 start.
“We have a mature, experienced group in here,” he said. “We’ve been through (similar adversity) in most of our careers. Early in the year, it felt like we were playing good enough to win more games than we did but at the same time, it felt like we weren’t really where we needed to be.”
Although the shutout was the Pittsburgh Penguins’ league-leading fourth of the season and pared their average goals-allowed per game to 2.62, the sixth-lowest figure in the NHL, Karlsson believe they can continue to shrink that number.
“We’re in a good place,” he said. “I don’t think we’re in a great place. We’ve got a lot of room to improve, in our overall game, as well.”
He seems confident that they’ll be able to do that.
“We’re still early in the journey, and it still feels like we have a lot more to give, which is a nice feeling to have,” Karlsson said. “We just have to keep taking it day-by-day, and keep making it one in a row.”
Drew O’Connor was keenly aware that he had gone 31 games without a goal before he beat Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle at 16:24 of the second period.
His reaction, then, could pretty much be distilled to a single word: Relief.
“It’s always nice to get the first one of the year,” O’Connor said. “The longer you go, the more the pressure builds up, so it feels good to get that one.”
His failure to score aside, O’Connor has had a fairly strong start to the season, teaming with Lars Eller and Radim Zohorna on what has developed into an effective third line. Part of the reason is that O’Connor has been able to largely compartmentalize his goal-scoring struggles, to not let that aspect of his game have a significant impact on other parts of it.
“I tried to not let it affect other parts of my game,” he said. “I try to play the same game every night. But when you go a while without scoring, you start to grip the stick a little tighter, so it could help the other areas of my game, for sure.”
O’Connor, who recorded two shots against the Sabres, had rung up 17 in the previous 12 games, and had had a number of scoring opportunities that didn’t make it into the net.
“I’ve had chances,” O’Connor said. “If you get those chances, eventually, it’s going to go in. You start to worry when you’re not getting the chances.”
Buffalo finished with 35 shots on goal. Tristan Jarry stopped every one of them.
He obviously was able to see just about everything the Sabres threw at him, which was noteworthy, since he hadn’t been able to see out of his right eye earlier in the week.
Jarry was struck above the right eye by a puck late in the second period of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2-0 victory in Anaheim last Tuesday. While it didn’t cause any structural damage, it did result in some severe swelling.
“My eye closed up, so I couldn’t see anything the last couple of days,” Jarry said. “It was nice that the swelling finally went down and I was able to play.”
And to do it well enough to record his league-leading third shutout.