PITTSBURGH (AP) — Tristan Jarry’s shaky start appears to be behind him. Mike Matheson’s, too. The Pittsburgh Penguins as a whole appear to be following suit.
Jarry stopped 31 shots, Matheson set up a goal with a spectacular give-and-go to himself and the Penguins led all the way in a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
The win was the first this season in which the Penguins led wire-to-wire and just the third that didn’t require overtime or a shootout. Having Jarry starting to show signs of the form that made him a surprise All-Star a year ago certainly helped. So did having Matheson flash some of the skill that made the Penguins acquire him from Florida last fall.
Matheson gave Teddy Blueger an easy tap-in goal late in the second period that made it 2-0 when he intentionally shot the puck off the end boards from the point, avoided a check, pounced on the long rebound and tried to stuff it past New York’s Semyon Varlamov. The puck trickled to the other side of the net, where Blueger was sitting all by himself.
The Islanders never recovered as their three-game winning streak came to an end.
“I think tonight was a real solid effort for our whole team for the whole 60 minutes,” Matheson said. “I think it’s a sign of things to come.”
Sidney Crosby, Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust also scored for the Penguins, who bounced back from a loss to Washington on Tuesday with perhaps their most complete performance of the season.
“We’re looking to try and gain some traction here and more consistent results and more consistent performance night in and night out,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought tonight was a pretty solid effort throughout the course of our lineup.”
Varlamov finished with 31 saves for the Islanders and Brock Nelson scored late to avoid the shutout, but New York spent much of the second half of the game fruitlessly chasing the Penguins.
“We didn’t have enough push,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “They backed it up pretty good. They did a good job of keeping everybody back. So we can be better. We can be better. Our game wasn’t a 4-1 game, in my opinion.”
Jarry was elevated to the team’s No. 1 goalie in the offseason after two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray was shipped to Ottawa. Jarry, however, did little over opening weeks to make it look like the right call. He ended up splitting time with Casey DeSmith and spent the down time working closely with goaltending coach Mike Buckley.
The work appears to be paying off. He was Pittsburgh’s best player while making 39 saves against the Capitals and he backed it up with three impressive periods against New York as the Penguins improved to 6-1 at PPG Paints Arena.
“I don’t think we gave him a ton of support to start the season,” Zucker said. “I think we left him out to dry a lot … but it’s great to see him playing well.”
Sullivan — as is his custom following a particularly blah stretch of play — tweaked his lineup, moving Kasperi Kapanen to the top line along with Crosby and Jake Guentzel while sliding Rust to the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Zucker.
It paid immediate dividends. The second line combined for six points and Crosby gave the Penguins the lead 4:15 into the game, though Kapanen did most of the grunt work, stripping the puck from Nelson in the right circle. Kapanen turned and fired at the net as he fell to the ice. Crosby’s deft redirect in the 999th regular-season game of his career gave the Penguins — who have spent much of the opening quarter of the season playing catch up — a lead.
“We’re trying to put an emphasis on having better starts and getting that first goal and it was great to get it tonight,” Zucker said.
Facing each other for the third time in 10 days, things turned chippy. Pittsburgh’s Brandon Tanev and New York’s Casey Cizikas drew fighting majors early in the first period. Matheson earned a boarding call in the third against Mathew Barzal, and Malkin and Scott Mayfield were hit with misconduct penalties in the final minutes.
“You play a team a lot and you have little grudges here and there,” New York’s Nick Leddy said. “But we’ve seen them a lot over the years. It’s a fun game to play in. It’s very intense. It’s like a playoff game every time we play them. So I think things will get a little chippy every now and then.”
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