In a gritty, closely contended game in Pittsburgh, the Rangers and Penguins locked horns today for the first time this season. It could well be a preview of the first round of the playoffs this season, and both teams looked very cognizant of that fact. There were post-whistle penalties and plenty of tempers flaring.
It was also the goalies who stole the show. Both Tristan Jarry and Igor Shesterkin are among the statistical leaders in the NHL in any major statistical category. Each showed why in this game. But while Shesterkin is considered the runaway Vezina leader (and possible Hart candidate), it was Jarry whose star shined brighter and recorded a 27 save shutout.
Shesterkin was no slouch though, he only allowed Evgeni Malkin’s third period power play goal as the game’s only red light and goal celebration. Malkin received a nice pass from Bryan Rust and quickly placed a shot across Shesterkin’s body. Crafty play and just enough touch that would have been required to beat one of these goalies on a day like this.
For the Pens, it was a 1-0 shutout win, and a better showing than previous games to break a three-game losing streak, but still far from a perfect game. Pittsburgh was lucky to not fall behind early, shots in the first period were 12-6 NYR, but Jarry was at his finest early on when the team in front of him was not.
From there, the Pens improved their play and carried much of the later stages of the game. However, at the other end of the ice, Shesterkin did his part to rob many a good scoring chance of his own.
The end result of this game would be that Pittsburgh would go from 70 to 72 points in the standings, at least temporarily hopping over the Rangers (71). These teams still have three more games to go against one another in the regular season. And possibly up to seven after that..
- Kinda funny how Thursday’s game against the Devils, the Pens scored one goal: Evgeni Malkin on the power play. Today the Pens also scored just one goal, and hey it was Evgeni Malkin on the power play again. Yet the outcome of each game couldn’t be more dramatically different as far as a 6-1 loss or 1-0 win. Just goes to show how similar and different things can be at the same time, I suppose.
- Malkin’s goal is his 75th career GWG, passing Mario Lemieux on the all-time list, and he’s up to a five game point streak. Right now Malkin is as good as anyone in the league on the power play with his ability to create offense.
- For all the talk about Shesterkin, what a game for Jarry to show that he’s as good as any goalie in the league when he’s on his game, too. And how about this, per Natural Stat Trick, Pittsburgh had 2.32 xG in all situations. New York had 2.4. Incredibly similar. Shots were almost identical at 27-26 NYR too. One goalie had that “one more save” in him today. That goalie wasn’t the guy who (probably) is gonna win the Vezina..
- Despite the slow-ish start offensively, did like the Pens’ jump, compete level and defensive awareness and plays in this game. They were buckled in.
- With Mike Matheson on the injury list, it was Mark Friedman (and not P.O Joseph) who got into the lineup. For Friedman it was his first game since January 8th, and even that game the Pens dressed seven defensemen that day. But it was a great outing for Friedman, who was on ice for 14 shot attempts for to just one against.
- The officiating in this game was maddening, and both clubs have good reason to feel that way. Three times the refs took off both a Penguin and Ranger in coincidental minors. This just built the ill-will and encouraged all the players to keep at it, knowing it would always just be “even up” calls. Significant issues went uncalled each way, Danton Heinen almost got his helmet taken off with a high-stick, no call. Mike Sullivan was apologetic after Marcus Pettersson was the only played penalized after a scrum in the third period when about three players on each teams were wildin’ out, yet at that point (after three straight “even ups”), only Pettersson was punished, and not even for anything that egregiously aggressive. Not a great game when no one knows the standard of the refs and it’s shifting around in a way that doesn’t make sense, but here we were.
Big win for the Pens, at this point of the season given the importance of Pens/NYR, this is if not the most important win of the year to date, it sure has to be close to the top of the list. Not much time to revel in it though, Pittsburgh is off for the quick trip over to Columbus tonight for a game tomorrow against the Blue Jackets.