With their backs against the wall recently and pressure mounting to turn around a season long slumber, the Pittsburgh Penguins put in a stellar performance against the top team in the Eastern Conference and the league.
Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby each scored two goals and Tristian Jarry was excellent, especially in the first twenty minutes to lead Pittsburgh to a 5-2 win at PPG Paints Arena.
It was a special teams kinda night as the Pens, again without Evgeni Malkin for the third straight game, racked up three power play goals and a Bryan Rust short-handed marker to open the night’s scoring.
Rust’s goal came with :59 seconds left in Jake Guentzels’ double minor for high sticking. A huge momentum builder in the game itself, and for a PK unit under siege lately.
With Jarry keeping the club in the game early, the Penguins would then get the benefit of penalty calls their way. Cedric Paquette would get his own double minor for high sticking Sid, and the Anton Stralman would be sent for a trip shortly thereafter.
It would result in Crosby finding Kessel at the back door for an easy slam dunk during the five-on-three for an important two goal lead at 18:03 of the first.
Nearly a minute and a half later it would be that combo….in reverse that ultimately put the game out of reach before the opening period could expire.
Kessel would take command of the puck and show a general-like presence on the powerplay…skating effectively through the Tampa zone before settling a Tampa the point and putting a wrister on net that Crosby would redirect home at 19:26.
So the special teams were on fire and the Pens had reversed the slow starts that really had plagued them over the recent past as they headed to the locker room up 3-0….even if Tampa out shot Pittsburgh 14-8 to that point.
During the first TV timeout, the Jumbotron would play a video paying tribute to Chris Kunitz. Showing various highlights and showing Kunitz getting his Cup ring earlier in the day. All met with a loud and long ovation from the crowd.
As stated, Jarry would keep Pittsburgh on top and continue to shine. He had numerous stops on Steven Stamkos (including a breakaway early in the game) and Victor Herman, but his best stop came on NHL goal scoring leader Nikita Kucherov when he picked up a puck that hit off the end boards and out the other side. His shot would be taken away by Jarry’s leg as the rookie got post to post in a flash.
Jarry also picked up an assist on Rust’s opening goal to put the cherry on top of the stat department.
Kessel would strike to make it 4-0 just 2:22 into the second as he took a stretch pass and absolutely roof a wrister past Petr Budaj for a patented Kessel-like strike.
It was his seventh goal in nine games. Also the only goal Pittsburgh would score at even strength during the game.
Ondrej Palat and Cory Conacher would tally the goals for the Lightning and Crosby would add another five-on-three marker a second the Pens would benefit from THREE of those opportunities on the night.
Kessel finished with 2 goals and 2 assists and Sid would add an assist to go with his two goals to shoulder most of the offense.
Pittsburgh would avoid a four game losing streak, something that hasn’t happened in these parts since December of 2015 when coach Sullivan first took over the team.
The win also marked the first time the Pens had won the second game in a back-to-back situation this season.
Crosby played in his 807th game with the club, moving past some guy named Jagr for second all time in Penguin history and solely behind that Lemieux fella.
A lot of trend reversals and momentum swings for a team that desperately needed it.
With a struggling Philadelphia Flyers team coming to town Monday evening, now would be a good time to keep the good habits rolling.
Malkin’s status is still day-to-day as of now, and Guentzel and Riley Sheahan have picked up the scoring along with Phil and Sid, something that is sorely needed.
I will have you covered for all things Pens and Flyers, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!