TAMPA, Fla. — Shooting the puck the length of the ice — and scrawling his signature in the pages of NHL history — wasn’t Tristan Jarry’s initial thought when he got the puck with a little more than a minute remaining in regulation Thursday night at Amalie Arena.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, after all, were protecting a 3-2 lead against Tampa Bay, and Jarry’s priority was to get the puck out of danger as quickly as possible.
“I kind of looked for the boards first,” he said. “Just to see what’s open and what’s around.”
What he ultimately saw was an opportunity to become the 14th goaltender in NHL history to score a goal during the regular season.
“It was just kind of a perfect scenario,” Jarry said. “They dumped it right on net. I didn’t even have to stop it. I just shot it on the fly and it ended up going in.
“It’s pretty neat, honestly. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often. There’s very few that have done it, so it’s something definitely pretty cool.”
Jarry, who also scored a goal while playing for the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, is renowned for his ability to handle the puck, but said he “never, honestly” practices scoring into a net that has been vacated by the opposing goalie, that “it’s something that just happens.”
His teammates certainly didn’t seem to be stunned that he’d gotten one, regardless of how it happened.
“Most guys, it probably doesn’t surprise them, because we’ve seen him shoot in practice,” Jeff Carter said. “He can snap it pretty good.”
What was somewhat obscured by Jarry’s goal was that his strong play during the first period, during which the Lightning had a 17-2 edge in shots at one point, was the primary reason the Pittsburgh Penguins had an opportunity to win, regardless of whether he chipped in with a goal.
“He had to battle rebounds and traffic all night,” Sidney Crosby said. “So to keep it at (2-0) and give us a chance to get our feet under us and get back in it was really important. And he shut the door, basically, the rest of the way.”
There was, of course, no reason to believe going into the game that Thursday would be the night Tristan Jarry would score his first goal in the National Hockey League.
There probably wasn’t much more reason to think that Jeff Carter would score the game-winner then, either.
But it was Carter, who had last scored April 6, who broke a 2-2 tie early in the third period, when he worked a give-and-go with linemate Matt Nieto and beat Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy from inside the left circle.
“It felt good,” Carter said. “It’s been a while.”
Although Carter has 432 career goals, his days as a prolific scorer are far behind him. Coach Mike Sullivan, though, feels Carter, a healthy scratch in six of seven games during one stretch in November, has continued to contribute.
“I think he’s playing real well, and we’re thrilled for him (to get the goal),” Sullivan said. “He’s just a great pro. He’s a great teammate. … He’s been in the lineup lately because we all think he’s deserving. He’s got a solid defensive game and can win faceoffs if you need it.”
Sidney Crosby has been around this game for a long time, has seen a lot of things.
But Tristan Jarry’s goal was the first he has witnessed in a game in which he was involved.
“I’ve never seen it live and been a part of it,” Crosby said. “I’m really happy for him. It was pretty cool to see.”
That was not how he felt about what he saw from the Pittsburgh Penguins during the opening period, when Tampa Bay appeared to be on the verge of blowing them out of the building.
“We weren’t coming out of our zone clean,” he said. “We were turning it over and they were just finding ways to possess the puck. They’re really good in the zone. They move well and we didn’t have a lot left in our legs at the end of some of those shifts.”