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Recap: Pens complete Canadian sweep, take out Jets 3-1

Jake Guentzel is a man on a mission as the Pens recover from a slow start and score three straight goals to secure their third straight win

Pittsburgh Penguins v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

It’s familiar looking lines and lineup for the Penguins who are rolling with the players that have brought them to a two game winning streak and a goalie on a long shutout streak in Tristan Jarry.

First period

The Pens get the first chance on the game’s first shift when Jake Guentzel feeds Sidney Crosby on a 2-on-1 and requires a great save by Connor Hellebuyck to keep the puck out of the net. It’s one of only five Pittsburgh shots in the first, as the Pens pretty much barely possessed the puck and spent a lot of time in their defensive zone.

That isn’t a winning strategy and it cost them as Winnipeg opened the scoring. Jarry finally saw his long shutout streak ended at 161 minutes and 33 seconds as the Jets’ Dominic Toninato converts a shot after a prolonged stretch that had the Penguins pinned in their own end.

That goal felt like simply a matter of time, being as Winnipeg pretty much totally dominated the period and were getting looks all over the place. Here’s some of the not pretty numbers from Natural Stat Trick —

Scoring chances: 14-5
Shot attempts: 22-10
High Danger chances: 4-1
xGF: 0.85 - 0.34
Shots: 11-5

Despite being on the wrong end of those lopsided numbers, Pittsburgh almost salvaged the period when Guentzel took a shot through traffic that just happened to hit Hellebuyck’s leg pad. Great positioning by the goalie, but if that shot happened to be just an inch or two higher, the Pens would have escaped with a tie in one of their worst periods in a while. Alas, they did not.

Other than the five-player Crosby group (including Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang), the other 13 skaters for the Pens recorded just one SOG in the first period. Not much going on positive for the away team early, but if there is one bright side it was that it only was a 1-0 game, thought Winnipeg would start the period on the tail-end of the game’s first power play, courtesy of a Marcus Pettersson interference call.

Second period

Teddy Blueger got a short-handed breakaway on said Winnipeg power play, but his shot hit Hellebuyck’s glove then the post. The Pens then got a power play when Pettersson evened up his penalty night by drawing an interference call on Pierre-Luc Dubois.

The power play doesn’t score (nothing new!) but they did generate a couple of really good chances with Crosby and Guentzel staying dangerous but Hellebuyck continuing to deny them.

Pittsburgh gets a second crack at a power play on a blown call, John Marino gets high-sticked but it was actually a teammate’s stick. It’s not reviewable, which is dumb, but as hockey karma goes the Pens don’t score on it anyways.

But on the carryover, Jason Zucker and Evan Rodrigues are reunited to share the ice at 5v5 and Rodrigues makes a great play to follow his shot, circle the net and make a pass from behind the net to Zucker. Zucker has a great angle with the goalie trapped low and down, so he fires a shot to the top corner past Hellebuyck and it’s a 1-1 game.

Guentzel continues his terrorizing of opposing goalies by running yet another goalie and getting an interference (and mugged by the Jets) for his aggression. The Pens are able to kill off a second Jets power play.

It’s a much better period and response for Pittsburgh, who finally woke up in the second. Shots in the middle frame were 14 a piece for each team.

Third period

Guentzel established the tone again early in the period, flying around like a maniac after the puck and the Pens cashed in a bit later. Chad Ruhwedel’s shot attempt ended up at the front of the net and Danton Heinen quickly chopped the rebound by Hellebuyck to give Pittsburgh their first lead of the game at 2-1.

A Brian Dumoulin turnover gives Kyle Connor a breakaway and gives the Jets a great chance to tie. Connor bobbles the puck a bit but still gets a shot on Jarry, who makes a solid stop.

Winnipeg pulls the goalie with a couple minutes left, and fittingly it’s Guentzel who puts the finishing touch on this game, he wraps around the empty cage and slams it home. 3-1 game with 2:14 left.

Rest of the game plays out quietly and the Pens skate out of Canada with three wins in three games.

Some thoughts

  • The Jarry shutout streak is the longest current one in the NHL by a goalie this season, but is only the fourth longest in Pens’ franchise history. Jarry had a shutout streak of 177:15 (about 16 minutes longer) back in 2019, which is the top streak. Hopefully he tries to make another run at it very soon, he’s already at almost 50 minutes on the next one!
  • The small Rodrigues-Zucker reunion paying off in a goal just shows further proof of how misaligned the Pens’ middle lines currently are with Jeff Carter between Zucker and Kasperi Kapanen and Rodrigues shoehorned into a line with Danton Heinen and Dominik Simon.
  • That said, it was a nice job by Heinen to clean up the trash and get a sixth goal of the season, he’s been a tremendous secondary scoring option. Took a puck to the face in the first and had to get some stitches too.
  • Guentzel has now run goalies in three of the last four or five games, and is going to the box and eating a lot of punches for it. Heart is in the right place but he definitely needs to adjust to avoid physically contacting goalies or it’s just going to keep hurting everyone. At least no one can question his drive and force in front of the net these days..
  • With Crosby still working into form, Guentzel certainly is the Pens’ key player and really driving the way they play at this point. This was his fifth game in a row of scoring a goal, and also had a team-high eight shots and his energy and effort is off the charts. Almost anything positive that happened for the Pens tonight seemingly had Guentzel’s fingerprints on it.
  • The Zucker goal was nearly a power play goal, which deserves some context, but the Pens’ power play still went 4 minutes on the night without scoring on the PP against the league’s 31st ranked PK. And they only mustered one shot on goal. Just isn’t going well right now for that group, even though at times it does look like they’re building with zone time, passes and possible chances — the end result is not culminating with the puck in the net.
  • First time this season that Pittsburgh wins after giving up the first goal of a game, and whatever was said in the first intermission worked to wake the team up. They would not have won had the skaters played the way they did in the first 20 for the whole game.

But an improvement was made to stretch the Pens’ winning streak to three games, all of which have come on the road. Pittsburgh will go back home and see a struggling Vancouver team with the chance to extend their winning ways.