The Penguins get three, THREE returns to the lineup from injury/illness with Bryan Rust, Justin Schultz and Jack Johnson are all back. Tristan Jarry starts again, only natural coming off his shutout win against St. Louis last game.
And the Coyotes are rolling with how they looked in their previous game just last night, with the exception of goalie Antti Raanta getting the start in net.
Tonight’s projected lineup. pic.twitter.com/6Ctd1yqrK7— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) December 6, 2019
The very first shift of the game Evgeni Malkin goes down feet-first into the boards pretty awkwardly while carrying some speed. Malkin stayed down for a bit and came off the ice gingerly but luckily didn’t make a shift.
Marcus Pettersson takes an interference penalty but the Pens are able to kill it off.
Game ambles along. Jake Guentzel takes the second penalty of the contest with a slash. Phil Kessel and company come close, but Tristan Jarry stands strong.
Kessel was visible all period long with 2 shots on goal and 2 more shot attempts that barely missed the net. Overall he was on ice for 13 Corsi Events for Arizona and 0 against, which is mighty strong.
Arizona with a classic “strong 20 minutes for having better legs due to playing last night” but the Pens weather the storm early, including the two power play chances AZ got. Overall shots are 13-9 Arizona, Natural Stat Trick has it as 7-3 in 5v5 scoring chances for AZ and 9-3 for all scenarios.
The Pens get their first power play of the game 1:55 into the period when Vinnie Hinostroza draws the automatic call for puck over the glass. Just 11 seconds later, the Coyotes get rung up on a cross-check by Oliver Ekman-Larsson to give Pittsburgh the golden opportunity of 1:49 on a 5v3 power play.
Unfortunately they don’t score and aside from a Malkin shot off the post and a good look by Guentzel in front that Raanta stops, they don’t come very close either. Tough, tough look for the Pens’ power play group not being able to crack the scoreboard.
And, in fact, no one would get on the scoreboard through 40 minutes. Two teams with good defensive structure just ping-ponging the puck back and forth after failed dumps or turnovers in deep.
Shots are 20-18 total in favor of the Pens after two. Goals are 0-0.
The teams traded a couple of fun scoring chances early with each goalie making good saves, and then finally Malkin opens the scoring with just 12:47 left in the game. Following an offensive zone draw, there’s finally a friendly bounce with Malkin pouncing on a loose puck and pickle-stabbing a puck home that beats Raanta low. 1-0 Pens.
Then it fully becomes the Tristan Jarry show. After Guentzel takes his second penalty of the game, Jarry starts making a series of huge saves to preserve the lead, including this kicking effort on Clayton Keller.
With about two minutes left the Coyotes pull Raanta for an extra attacker. With 12 seconds left, Bryan Rust clears the puck over the glass for a penalty after Arizona was playing with some desperation. But the puck gets cleared and Teddy Blueger rather selflessly feeds Brandon Tanev for an empty net tap in with one second left.
Big 2-0 win, thanks mainly to Jarry making saves on all 33 shots he saw, including a huge 13 stop effort in the third period.
Three final thoughts
Jarry shines again. Jarry was awesome in this game, as he’s been for most of the season. The Pens continue to ride the hot hand, and why not? Tomorrow being a back-to-back presents an interesting issue - should the Pens go back to Jarry again? Can you take a guy out who has had two straight shutouts? It’s tough but given the timeline and statistical history that goalies usually perform worse due to the mental/physical stress of playing so much in short duration, it’s probably wise for Jarry to get a night off. But he’s made the case to play again, that much is for sure.
Power play woes continue. The Pens are lucky Jarry didn’t allow any goals, because failing to score with 1:49 on a 5-on-3 back in the second period was inexcusable. Had Arizona gotten that lucky bounce leading to the game’s first goal, that would have been looked back on as a crucial turning point and lost opportunity that Pittsburgh really shouldn’t have let slip away. They’ll live to get away with it, and maybe that’s just how it’s going to go as long as Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist are out of the lineup, but it’s struggles like these that are going to catch up with them eventually in tight games.
Schedule getting friendly. After tonight, the next 5 opponents for the Pens are all outside of the playoff picture. A few of them (DET, CBJ, LAK) are among the worst teams in the entire league. It’s not perfect timing since the Pens are banged up, but getting guys like Rust and Schultz back ought to make them better on paper than most the teams they’ll see in the next week+ and they really need to take advantage of that. We’ll see if they can.