The Pittsburgh Penguins 25 and under club provided the spark on the second of back-to-back games and brought the offense, too. Sam Lafferty scored the goal which held as the game-winner midway through the second period then added another midway through the third period. His big smile, which is missing a few teeth from a high stick last season, could be seen from space. The Penguins suppressed any Winnipeg comeback and cruised to a 7-2 win at the Bell MTS Center on Sunday night.
The Penguins winning goalie Tristan Jarry is only 24-years-old, too.
Less than two minutes into the game, Winnipeg scored first. Mathieu Perrault (2) indiscriminately shot the puck toward the net from the corner. It awkwardly caromed off Penguins defenseman Erik Gudbranson and past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.
The Penguins scored seven of the next eight goals.
Zach Aston-Reese, 25, has not yet found his stride this season. The Penguins winger with a heavy game scored his first goal of the year just two minutes after Winnipeg scored the opening goal of the game. Four minutes into the first period, Brandon Tanev circled the Winnipeg net. His shot rebounded to the slot and a charging Teddy Blueger ripped an attempt. Aston-Reese (1) was the beneficiary of the third chance and lit the lamp with a turning backhander as he fell to the ice.
Aston-Reese (2) also scored the final Penguins goal, too. It was a shorthanded tally with five minutes remaining. Aston-Reese didn’t forget his ugly turnover which spotted Winnipeg a big goal last Tuesday night and the chances he subsequently missed, either.
“It feels pretty good. Especially against this team after what happened last game; giving them an easy goal and not being able to respond,” Aston-Reese said. “Just to be able to get those against this team feels pretty good.”
Midway through the second period, the teams finally began put some goals on the board.
Gritty isn’t just a nightmare-inducing, meme producing Philadelphia Flyers mascot. It’s also a new hallmark of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins took the lead with a power-play goal by Jake Guentzel. The Penguins many-faced power-play unit showed endless movement and rotations before Guentzel (4) sneaked behind the defenders and deposited a rebound.
Just 41 seconds later emerging rookie hero Sam Lafferty showed why coaches have raved about his game. Lafferty assisted on a defensive play then joined the Penguins rush. Joseph Blandisi’s shot was deflected but it bounced off the end wall to the opposite post and to Lafferty (2) who, at full speed, chipped it into the net.
Winnipeg stayed in the game turning the tables on the Penguins with a power-play goal. Top center Mark Scheifele’s shot deflected back to him in the slot. Scheifele snapped it into the net before Jarry could adjust and sliced the Penguins lead to 3-2.
The gritty Penguins offense bore more fruit late in the second period. After Jake Guentzel dumped the puck into the zone, Simon outlasted a pair of Winnipeg players and won possession. Simon (1) went to the net and cleaned the garbage in front.
The goal appeared to take the starch out of Winnipeg’s shorts.
Lafferty (3) added another goal midway through the third period as he skated around the net. Lafferty’s turning shot deflected off a skate and the Penguins rookie had another marker.
Guentzel (5) also scored again later in the third period when he snapped a top-shelf wrister of Winnipeg goalie Laurent Brossoit.
The Pittsburgh Penguins team effort insulated Jarry from too many Grade-A chances against. Jarry stopped 27 of 29 shots for his first win of the season. Jarry made a few sparkling saves late in the third period during a Winnipeg five-on-three power play including a glove save on sniper Patrick Laine.