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Penguins Waddle to 3-0 Victory in Snooze Fest Over Jets

Photos by Scott Stroh

Penguins Waddle to 3-0 Victory in Snooze Fest Over Jets

Things were just downright unenjoyable in central Winnipeg Saturday evening.

Unless you’re a fan of packed one-way streets, minimal parking, Santa Clause Parades and slow-moving, uneventful hockey games, November 19 probably wasn’t your day.

With the annual Christmas festival clogging up the streets of Downtown, the Pittsburgh Penguins made their lone visit to Manitoba on Saturday. After watching Kyle Connor score a hat trick in the team’s 3-2 victory over Anaheim just two days prior, the Jets just couldn’t get it going, ultimately getting shut out 3-0 by Tristan Jarry and the Penguins.

When the biggest cheer of the night comes from a third period television timeout jumbotron promo wishing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers well in their pursuit of a third-straight Grey Cup title, you know it wasn’t a strong performance on the ice.

Nothing against the Bombers and their sensational dynasty run, but fans at Canada Life Centre typically come to see hockey, and good hockey, at that. The game actually marked the team’s second sellout crowd of 15,325 on the season, but fans did not get their money’s worth on this night.

A back-and-forth opening period saw the two teams exchange chances, but nothing more. The always-dominant duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each had a couple shots on net, but Connor Hellebuyck once again appeared fully dialed in. Winnipeg held a slight 13-11 shot advantage through 20 minutes.

The second period was highlighted by a parade to the penalty box. After Pierre-Luc Dubois found himself in the sin bin for a little unnecessary roughness, he managed to draw not one, but two Pittsburgh penalties. Sadly, neither the first nor second power play units were able to create much in terms of offensive success. The best opportunities actually came from Winnipeg’s second unit, with Neal Pionk directing traffic from the blueline.

“Yeah, I thought the guys did a great job there boxing out early, and it allowed me to see a lot of pucks,” Jarry said. “I was seeing tips and played well positionally. They were letting me see the puck and I think when our penalty kill is rolling, our team is a better team. I think that really helps us.”

Heading into the final period of play, the Jets maintained their slight shot advantage (23-21) but just couldn’t get find a way to solve Jarry.

“He played great, obviously made some big saves,” Josh Morrissey said of the Pens’ netminder. “Helly played great as well. It was a tight game throughout and there were a lot of big saves both ways. You’d like to get your goalie some offence when he’s playing that well. We have to figure out what we can do better and be ready for Monday.”

With a 3.65 goal-per-game average, fans making the trip to Canada Life Centre expected to at least see one goal from the visitors. But through 40 minutes of play, the score remained deadlocked at zeros.

That all changed 53 seconds into the third, as Pittsburgh found a way to break the dam. A give-and-go setup play between Jason Zucker and Evgeni Malkin saw Zucker pot his fifth of the campaign on a one-timer that beat Hellebuyck to his glove side.

Some late pressure from Winnipeg but the Jets fate seemed sealed from the opening puck drop. It just wasn’t their night and fans and players alike seemed to know it.

In attempting to get the extra attacker onto the ice, Connor Hellebuyck found himself in no-man’s land, and played the puck onto the stick of Sidney Crosby. He calmly slipped it to Bryan Rust, who potted the insurance marker past a beleaguered Hellebuyck, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead. Jake Guentzel added another empty-netter to seal the deal, 3-0.

“They got the lead early in the third and did a pretty good job of breaking it out and being tough to get through in the neutral zone,” Morrissey added. “That’s a veteran team over there and there are some things we can do better to get some offence in the third when we are pushing. Both goalies played well and it probably could have went either way for a lot of the game.”

Hellebuyck stopped 29 of Pittsburgh’s 31 shots, but ultimately couldn’t collect his ninth win of the season. Tristan Jarry turned aside all 32 shots for the Pens, and saw his record improve to 6-3-2.

“He was awesome,” Bryan Rust said of his goaltender. “Jarry has been an awesome goalie for us for a very long time. He made very key saves for us tonight.”

The Jets are now 10-5-1 on the season and next take on fellow Metropolitan Division opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes from Canada Life Centre on Monday evening. The team then packs up and hits the road for a three-game Central Division road trip with stops in Minnesota, Dallas and Chicago. Puck drop is set for 6:30 PM central time on Monday, while the game can be viewed live on Sportsnet.

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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