PITTSBURGH — It’s difficult to get a read on Tristan Jarry. The reserved Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender speaks with a monotone that makes it hard to tell if he’s coming off his best performance of the season, or his worst.
It’s a steadiness that has fueled Jarry to a pair of All-Star appearances. Yet, look hard enough at the way Jarry plays, and there’s an edge now that didn’t exist a year ago during a forgettable first-round playoff loss to the New York Islanders. Jarry no longer sits back in his crease. Instead he’s out there cutting down angles and occasionally mixing it up in the process.
Jarry calls it “taking the ice that’s mine.” He claimed plenty of it in a taut 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday that leapfrogged the Penguins over their rivals for second-place in the tight Metropolitan Division.
Two days after getting pulled for the first time all season in a dismal loss to last-place New Jersey — a game in which he allowed five goals on 19 shots thanks in large part to some shaky play in front of him — Jarry turned aside all 27 shots he saw from the Rangers to post the 11th shutout of his career, tied with Matt Murray and Les Binkley for third-most in team history.
Evgeni Malkin provided the difference with a power-play goal 5:09 into the third period when he went down to one knee to rifle a snapshot from the right circle past Igor Shesterkin. The score was Malkin’s eighth of the season.
Pittsburgh ended a three-game losing streak by returning to the kind of responsible, disciplined play that was the team’s hallmark until a recent dip in which they were shaky in losses to Toronto, Carolina and the Islanders.
“I thought we did a really good job,” Pittsburgh forward Jeff Carter said. “Obviously our defensive game hasn’t been up to par lately … it’s something we’ve talked about the last few days and I thought everyone came in with the mindset to check first and create our chances off that.”
Shesterkin finished with 25 saves, but the Rangers, who tested Jarry early and late, ended their six-game point streak.
“I thought it was a hard-working game for both teams,” New York coach Gerard Gallant said. “Great goaltending, obviously, by both teams. It’s a good hockey game. It’s too bad one goal decided it. They buried their power play. Jarry made a couple great saves on our power play.”
The two goaltenders matched each other stop for stop for the game’s first 45 minutes until Malkin broke through with New York’s Ryan Lindgren in the penalty box after hooking Penguins star Sidney Crosby.
The ensuing power play gave Pittsburgh its first lead in well over a week. Crosby threaded a pass to Bryan Rust, who then flipped it over to Malkin in the right circle. The Russian star buried it for what became the 75th game-winning goal of his career, passing franchise icon Mario Lemieux for second on the club’s all-time list. Crosby’s secondary assist moved him into a tie with Mike Modano for 25th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list (1,374 points).
Jarry made it stand up in a meeting that had all the trappings of what awaits both teams when the playoffs begin in just over two months. The first of four meetings over the next six weeks between two teams separated by one point in the tight Metropolitan Division standings included a series of post-whistle dust-ups and some stellar goaltending by Jarry and Shesterkin, who took the ice with a combined 50 wins (25 each) on the season.
“(t was) a little chippier than some other games, I think,” New York defenseman Jacob Trouba said. “That’s what you have to expect, especially coming down the stretch.”
The Penguins seemed caught off guard at first by New York’s speed and continued a troubling pattern of getting off to a sluggish start. Unlike a blowout loss to the Devils on Thursday night, this time it didn’t cost them. New York recorded eight of the game’s first nine shots while the Penguins were too busy frittering away what limited opportunities they created, most notably a 5-on-2 break in which two players passed up open looks in favor of trying to locate a teammate for a tap-in goal that never materialized.
Pittsburgh, as has been its habit of late, found its footing in the second period. The Penguins created several scoring chances only to have Shesterkin come up large each time. He denied Crosby from in close and made a pair of athletic stops on Danton Heinen, the first with a glove save on a shot from the left circle and the second with a well-timed slide nearly from post to post after Malkin set Heinen up for a one-timer.
“Both guys were awesome tonight,” Carter said. “(Jarry) made some huge saves for us at really key times. He was a huge part of our win. On the flip side it’s not fun going against that guy, he’s a heck of a goalie.”
Rangers: Begin a three-game homestand on Sunday against Vancouver.
Penguins: Play their third game in four days when they visit division rival Columbus on Sunday night.
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox