The Pittsburgh Penguins fourth line hogged the spotlight. The line, which featured Garrett Wilson who was pointless in 39 previous NHL games and Derek Grant who had not yet scored his first goal as a Penguin, tied the game in the second and third period and provided the Penguins with the necessary spark. Former fourth liner Zach Aston-Reese scored the Penguins winner with just five minutes remaining and the Penguins held on for a 4-3 win at the Bell MTS Place.
Aston-Reese stepped into a Phil Kessel centering pass which ping-ponged off a Winnipeg defender. The puck caromed directly to Aston-Reese (2) who blasted a top-shelf slap shot over Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
The Penguins have won two in a row, three of four and have points in five straight games.
The Winnipeg Jets are the most penalized team in the NHL, averaging just over 12 minutes of penalties per game. Just 14 seconds into the Penguins first power play, they trailed 1-0. Seven minutes into the period, Brandon Tanev circled the zone with the puck. As Phil Kessel dropped coverage, Tanev (4) snapped it through goalie Casey DeSmith’s five-hole.
The Penguins top line was not without a shining moment, as well. Late in the first period, Jake Guentzel chipped the puck ahead to Dominik Simon who raced to the loose puck in the Winnipeg zone. Simon zipped a no-look pass around a defender to Sidney Crosby (10) who backhanded it past Hellebuyck for a 1-1 tie.
“It wasn’t looking good a few times. We made a few mistakes which hurt us a few times. We stuck with it,” said Crosby.
The Penguins have been plagued by slow line changes all season and just 39 seconds into the second period they were bitten by their mistakes again. What should have been a routine change became a three-on-two break for Winnipeg. Mark Schiefle (12) gave Winnipeg the lead when unleashed a wicked one-timer over DeSmith’s shoulder.
Schiefle (13) also scored the Winnipeg third goal on a Jets line change. Schiefle was along against four Penguins defenders but his near perfect shot from high in the zone beat DeSmith, who was just off his angle.
The Penguins fourth line put their first marker on the board midway through the second period. The Penguins grinders outworked Winnipeg and Riley Sheahan (2) fired a hard wrist shot off Hellebuyck’s blocker. Sheahan followed his shot and poked the rebound over the goal line to tie the game, 2-2.
“To see them chip in offensively is great. And they deserve it with how hard they work,” Crosby grinned.
The Penguins first lead of the game came with Aston-Reese’s game-winner. The Penguins had only five turnovers and 30 shots. They scored two goals on just five shots in the third period.
“It’s huge. When you get contributions from the bottom six it makes us that much more difficult to play against,” Mike Sullivan.
Casey DeSmith stopped 24 of 27 shots, including several key saves in the third period. DeSmith is 6-3-3.