Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry made a career-high 46 saves. The NHL issued a statistical correction and credited Jarry with making 44 saves, a figure below his career-best figure of 45.
Tristan Jarry didn’t necessarily have a set return date in mind.
It was more like general ambition.
On Friday, the goaltender was back in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup after missing seven games due to a suspected right leg injury and directed his club to a 4-1 home win against the Ottawa Senators at PPG Paints Arena.
As recently as Tuesday, Jarry had indicated he wasn’t sure when he would be healthy enough to play again. But he had an ideal he was aiming for when asked how long it would take to regain the form that has made him a two-time All-Star.
“Hopefully, the second that I step on the ice,” said Jarry, who was activated from injured reserve on Friday afternoon. “That’s why you rehab and why you take the time in practice and go out with the guys and make sure you’re getting (repetitions).”
All that work during his convalescence paid off handsomely as he appeared aggressive and alert throughout the contest.
And he had to be.
Jarry wasn’t exactly on a pitch count after being sidelined for nearly three weeks. In fact, he set a season high in saves as he stopped 44 of the 45 shots the Senators lobbed at him while improving his record on the campaign to 16-5-4.
“I was seeing the puck well,” Jarry said. “I guess it helps to kind of get that many shots early and to just get into the feel of the game and just to get pucks on you.”
Jarry suffered his injury during the first period of a 2-1 road loss to the Boston Bruins outdoors at Fenway Park in the Winter Classic on Jan 2.
“Well rested,” Jarry quipped. “I’ve had a little bit of time off.”
Another returnee to the lineup helped the Penguins open the scoring 11:14 into regulation with a power-play goal.
Defenseman Jeff Petry, activated from long-term injured reserve prior to the game after missing 16 contests due to a suspected left arm injury, controlled the puck at the center point of the offensive zone and chopped a half-slapper down the slot, where Penguins forward Jake Guentzel re-directed it on net. Goaltender Cam Talbot made the initial save but allowed a rebound to the left of the crease, where Penguins forward Rickard Rakell cleaned it up like Carl Reed with a forehand shot past the left skate of Senators defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker and Talbot’s right leg for his 17th goal. Guentzel and Petry had assists.
Petry wasn’t exactly eased back into the lineup either as he logged a team-high 25:25 of ice time on 31 shifts.
“I felt pretty good,” Petry said. “The legs were there. They got a little heavy at the end. It was nice to get back into game action. For me, it was just keeping it simple early, making the first pass when it was there and kind of building my game from that.”
Only 43 seconds after Rakell’s opening salvo, Penguins forward Jason Zucker put his team up by two with his 13th goal. Bernard-Docker tried to play a puck off his own end boards but was bodied off of it by Zucker, who claimed possession behind the cage. Spinning forward, Zucker flipped the puck from his forehand to his backhand and elevated a shot over the right shoulder of Talbot, who was slow to react to Zucker’s theft of the puck. There were no assists.
The hosts went up by a field goal at 17:12 of the second period via Guentzel’s 19th goal. Picking up a loose puck in his own right corner, Penguins forward Bryan Rust lugged the puck up ice, dodged a handful of Senators and upon gaining the offensive blue line at the left point, offloaded a forehand pass to Guentzel streaking up the right wing. Attacking the cage with little resistance, Guentzel snapped a wrister past Talbot’s blocker. Rust registered the only assist.
A mere 103 seconds later, the visitors responded when forward Brady Tkachuk scored his 17th goal through slightly bizarre circumstances. Gaining the Penguins’ zone on the right wing via a two-on-two rush with Tkachuk, Senators forward Tim Stutzle lifted a wrister from the right circle that Jarry rejected. As the rebound bounced to the left of the cage and was settled by Tkachuk, Penguins forward Sidney Crosby and defenseman Marcus Pettersson each crashed into the net. With Jarry cut off by his teammates, Tkachuk, who lost his glove while skating up ice, banked a wrister off of Pettersson’s right leg and into the cage. The lone assist went to Stutzle.
Guentzel reached the 20-goal mark at 6:13 of the final frame thanks to a little bit of luck. On a two-on-one rush against Senators Thomas Chabot, Crosby gained the offensive zone on the left wing and fed the pass to the right wing for Guentzel. Allowing things to develop for a moment, Guentzel forced a pass back to Crosby, but hustling Bernard-Docker raced back and managed to break it up with a poke check, only to inadvertently deflect the puck into his own cage. Guentzel was credited with the goal off assists from Crosby and Rust.
That score marked the sixth consecutive season Guentzel broke the 20-goal barrier.
“Just fortunate to play (with) good players,” Guentzel said. “Lucky to score goals in this league. … You just try to enjoy it as much as you can.”
Jarry certainly seemed to enjoy being back in the lineup, though he admitted to having some rust.
“You kind of lose your timing here and there and you lose your game flow a little bit,” Jarry said. “Especially with the way things are right are, we don’t practice very much right now just with the way scheduling is. I wasn’t actually able to get into a team practice before coming back. Just being able to just get into a game, get back into the game flow and get back into things helps a little bit.”
Jarry helped his team quite a bit on Friday.
“He’s such a good goalie,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s got such a calm demeanor in there. He makes some difficult saves sometimes look routine. That’s when he’s at his best.”
• Penguins forward Brock McGinn recorded his first fighting major in over three years when he tussled with Senators defenseman Travis Hamonic at 10:26 of the first period. Hamonic challenged McGinn after a heavy check that dropped Senators defenseman Erik Brannstrom. Hamonic was assessed an instigator penalty as well which led to the Penguins’ opening goal.
• McGinn’s previous fight came as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 11, 2019 against former Senators forward Bobby Ryan.
• Much later in the contest, Tkachuk and Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman, two of the more agitating entities in the NHL, got fed up with one another and fought at 1:50 p.m. of the third period.
• Penguins defenseman PO Joseph and Senators forward Mathieu Joseph played one another in an NHL game for the first time in their careers and they shared a truly unique – or strange – moment at 1:02 p.m. of the third period when they were assessed coincidental penalties for high sticking one another.
In all reality, PO Joseph clipped himself and his brother with his own stick while Mathieu was innocent in the matter.
Their parents, mother France Taillon and father Frantzi Joseph, were awestruck in the aftermath.
PO Joseph largely chuckled at the incident.
“I feel like every league that we’ve played against each other, we’ve had a penalty against each other,” PO Joseph said. “I guess you kind of figure it’s going to come at some point.”
Mathieu Joseph, on the other hand, was pretty mad about the penalty when asked about it following the game.
“That was not a penalty on me,” Mathieu Joseph protested. “I don’t know what happened there. I think he got his own stick in the face. I just got caught up in there. I don’t know if they thought this was going to be funny or something, that we both get a penalty at the same time. But stuff happens. I’m sure my parents had a good laugh about it, but I didn’t think it was funny.”
• Jarry’s came close to setting a career-high for saves. His high-water mark is 45 saves on 48 shots in a 3-2 road loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 23, 2019.
• With Penguins forward Kasperi Kapanen scratched due to an undisclosed injury that is expected to keep him sidelined on a “week-to-week” basis, forward Danton Heinen returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the two previous games. Heinen opened the contest on the right wing of the fourth line and logged 8:27 of ice time on 12 shifts and recorded one shot attempt.
• The Penguins’ lone healthy scratch was defenseman Ty Smith.