In their first matchup of the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils combined for 77 shots on goal. At that rate, the goaltenders are going to be tired, considering they play each other seven more times this season. Thursday’s affair started a touch differently as Devils’ starting netminder Mackenzie Blackwood was scratched 10 minutes before the game and the Penguins had to deal with an amped-up Scott Wedgewood.
Even after a slow start, the new starter was peppered with 45 Penguins’ shots. The Penguins threw everything they could at the net on and it wasn’t enough as they lost 3-2.
Tristan Jarry Kept The Penguins in it Early
Jarry came out ready to play, and it’s a good thing he did, because his Penguins teammates deserved to be down at least a few early on in the game. On one good scoring chance after another, Jarry stood tall and looked sharp including a flashy glove save in tight on Devils forward Kyle Palmieri.
It’s been an up-and-down season as the inconsistent netminder has grinded his way to a 12-7-1 record heading into Thursday night. From the opening faceoff, Jarry looked nice and quiet in the net and was reading the play beautifully.
New Jersey ended up with 35 shots on Jarry and there was none prettier than Jack Hughes’ goal to open the scoring. Hughes made John Marino look silly then tucked it short side top shelf. The spectacular goal was the sophomore’s seventh of the season and Jarry stood no chance. It was going in on almost every other goalie in the league.
The second goal was a power-play blast from P.K. Subban – thanks to a nice screen from Miles Wood, Jarry stood no chance. The eventual winning goal banked in off Travis Zajac in front of the net – again, there wasn’t much Jarry could do on the play.
Jarry is going to be the Penguins’ most important player in the second half of the season. With the number of injuries up front, the soon-to-be 26-year-old needs to be a crutch the team can lean on to win when they’re not supposed to. Jarry’s capable of stealing games as he’s shown numerous times this season. The team is going to need their goaltending to be rock solid and the bulk of the work is headed Jarry’s way. With a career 46-27-5 record, it appears the Penguins are in good hands in the crease.
Coach Sullivan is Going to Lean on Sidney Crosby
The Penguins were without Evgeni Malkin and Teddy Blueger against the Devils so head coach Mike Sullivan used Crosby’s line a lot; Sid finished with 21:54 of ice-time and won 22 of 36 faceoffs. The Penguins’ leader was everywhere and his crafty plays in front of the net almost led to a goal in the first period.
Crosby’s 22 faceoff wins were the most he’s had all season, surpassing his previous high of 17. He had the rare night of seeing both linemates score goals while walking away pointless. Unfortunately, even with a stellar night from the Penguins’ top line, it wasn’t enough against the Devils. With the standings so tight in the East Division, if the Penguins stand any chance to secure a playoff spot, it’s because No. 87 guided them there. With four goals in his last seven games, Sullivan is hoping some more ice-time will spark a hot streak out of his captain.
Nobody wants to win more than Crosby and there’s no doubt he’s feeling a touch more pressure with Malkin out of the lineup.
Kasperi Kapanen Continues to Impress
The speedy winger continued his strong play of late with another solid performance against the Devils. Kasperi Kapanen uses his speed as well as anyone in the league and he found himself with some good looks throughout the game. The 24-year-old is quickly turning into an integral piece for Sullivan and it showed against the Devils as he played over 20 minutes for the first time all season. Expect to see more of this moving forward.
The opportunity the young forward has in front of him is the biggest of his career and he appears ready to flourish. Throw in some staying consistent physical play and the sky is the limit for the Penguins winger. Getting Kapanen back on the team was all Jim Rutherford, so a tip of the cap to the Penguins’ former general manager. Some in the media were a bit surprised he gave up a first-round pick and a solid prospect in Filip Hallander in the deal but it’s showing so far this season it was the right move. Kapanen was one of the best Penguins against the Devils and by the looks of things, Penguins’ fans can get used to hearing that.
Game one of eight between the Devils and Penguins saw the goalies put through a ton of work. Expect more of the same in the rematch on Saturday. Pittsburgh needs to do a better job of starting on time if they want to avenge the loss. Penguins fans are hoping their captain doesn’t go pointless – it’s hard to win when he does.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can find Seney also contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween