ANAHEIM — It was the perfect storm of two events. One should have been a penalty, and the other was pure bad luck as Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry immediately left the game late in the second period of the Penguins’ 2-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
Ducks forward Adam Henrique skated toward the net and made direct contact with Jarry. Henrique’s hip made direct contact with Jarry’s head, causing the goalie’s neck to bend awkwardly and his mask to loosen. Simultaneously, Ducks center Ryan Stome snapped a high wrist shot.
The shot hit Jarry’s loose mask, which caused a substantial cut on Jarry’s face, but also seemed to cause further injury (potential concussion).
Tristan Jarry has gone to the dressing room following this collision with Adam Henrique. pic.twitter.com/KalVNDaVYF
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 8, 2023
Coach Mike Sullivan did not have a further update after the game, though Jarry could be seen being led out of the Penguins locker room after the win.
Third goalie Magnus Hellberg relieved Jarry and stopped all 11 shots in the win. According to Penguins historian Bob Grove, it was the fifth combined shutout in Penguins history.
“Obviously, I’m playing hockey to play games as well. So of course, if they tell me to to keep playing here, I’m up for it, for sure,” said Hellberg.
The gregarious backstop, who is listed at 6-foot-6, cleared 220 pounds waivers after training camp and was assigned to the WBS Penguins to be experienced depth. However, backup goalie Alex Nedeljkovic was injured on Oct. 24 and is currently on the long-term injured list until at least Nov. 19 (the 11th game since his injury).
Hellberg, 32, has 25 games of NHL experience, including Tuesday’s shutout share. It was the second time since his recall that he’s relieved Jarry, and he’s stopped 24 of the 26 shots he’s faced.
“I think just depth at that position is critical to having success in this league,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. “We already have one guy that we left at home (who is) injured right now. And then when Tristan goes down, and Magnus has to go in — we’re confident that he can go in and get to get the job done, as he showed tonight.”
In Hellberg’s NHL career, which includes 18 appearances with the Detroit Red Wings (17 last season), two games with the Penguins, three with the New York Rangers, and one each with the Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators beginning in 2013-14, Hellberg has a career .888 save percentage.
The big netminder is well-traveled since being the Predators 2011 second-round pick (38th overall). He’s also played for Milwaukee, Hartford, and Grand Rapids of the AHL, and from 2017-2022, he played for multiple teams in the KHL.
“I just try to be in the right position and don’t overwork. I know I’m a big guy back there, and I think lately I’ve been feeling really good in practice, doing some good work with (Andy Chiodo), the goalie coach,” Hellberg said Tuesday night. “So I’m just a small part of the team. And, of course, sometimes you start the game, and sometimes you jump in like this.”
If Jarry is injured, expect the Penguins to make an emergency call-up. Top goalie prospect Joel Blomqvist, fellow hopeful Taylor Gauthier, and journeyman goalie Garrett Sparks are currently the healthy netminders for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
The backup will come from one of those three. Pending the situation, it would seem Sparks would be the choice, though he has played just one game this season.
Sparks, 30, has 40 NHL games on his resume, primarily with two stints for the Toronto Maple Leafs, most recently in 2018-19 (when Penguins’ president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas was the Toronto GM). Sparks most recently played two NHL games for the 2021-22 LA Kings.
Sparks is no small goalie, either. He’s 6-foot-3, 220 pounds.
The other option would be the 21-year-old Blomqvist, who has played in seven AHL games this season, posting a .920 save percentage.
The Penguins’ goalie surplus, including having two goalies with NHL experience and Blomqvist sharing the WBS Penguins net, quickly seems like a good idea.
The Pittsburgh Penguins practice at 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and we might know more about Jarry’s condition.