WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP)Injuries to some key players has forced the Pittsburgh Penguins to play a simpler game, and it’s working out quite well for them.
Zach Aston-Reese, Sam Lafferty and Jake Guentzel each had two goals to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night.
Dominik Simon also scored and Aston-Reese also had an assist for the Penguins. Tristan Jarry stopped 27 shots.
”We talk a lot about being hard to play against,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. ”It starts with your own puck possession, the decisions you make, the line changes, when you change. You put your teammates in good positions because you change at the right time. The tracking on the puck and the back pressure on the puck so you have numbers back.
”For me this is the definition of being hard to play against and it’s a recipe for success, regardless of who’s in your lineup.”
Forwards Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust are all on Pittsburgh’s injured reserve list but the Penguins improved their record to 4-2-0 with their second win on the road this week.
”We’ve got different guys stepping up and we’ve got guys coming out of the lineup,” Guentzel said. ”So it just kind of happens like that and when you lose star power like that you’ve just got to be simple and we’re getting better at it.”
Mathieu Perreault and Mark Scheifele had goals for the Jets, and Laurent Brossoit finished with 21 saves.
Jarry, playing his first game as a starter in three weeks, shook off a lucky goal from Perreault that gave the Jets a 1-0 lead in the first period. Perreault’s centering pass from behind the net bounced off a defender’s stick and in.
”It’s obviously something you can’t control, it’s something that just happens, part of the game, a weird bounce and you just have to get back and focus on what you need to do,” Jarry said.
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice thought the turning point was a tripping penalty in the first period that gave Pittsburgh it’s second goal, followed just 41 seconds later by a third.
”We take a penalty we don’t like, and then we’re down 3-1,” he said. ”We were in a fairly tight game. Not a heavy advantage to either team shot wise or chance wise. That’s where I thought it turned for us.”
He also believes the Jets’ power play needs work after they made good on just one of six chances.
”Well we’re not clicking right,” Maurice said. ”We don’t have the zone time and we’re kind of out of sorts a little bit. When we get to positions that pucks get knocked down or we’re not coming up with it, we’re not in a particularly good place to defend it. We’re working on it.”
Both teams were playing back-to-back games and lacked zip in the first period but Jets forward Blake Wheeler didn’t blame it on fatigue.
”It was right there,” he said of their chance to win the game. ”The start was good. Through the second period, it was good. We get the power-play goal and we’re down by a goal. Puck bounced the wrong way tonight.”
The home crowd’s celebration after Perreault’s goal was short-lived as Aston-Reese tied it up a few minutes later when, as he was falling to the ice in front of the Winnipeg net, he slipped a loose rebound past Brossoit at 4:09 for his first goal of the season.
Guentzel scored on a power play at 7:50 of the second to give the Penguins the lead and then, just 41 seconds later, a puck bounced behind the net and back out right in front of Lafferty, who slammed it in to make it 3-1.
Scheifele narrowed it by backhanding a rebound past Jarry on a power play at the 10-minute mark but Simon restored the two-goal lead with 3 1/2 minutes left as his shot pinballed through traffic before ending up in the Jets’ net. It was also his first of the season.
The Jets seemed to find more steam at the start of the third after coach Paul Maurice made some line changes but couldn’t turn things around, striking out on their fourth power play.
Instead, Lafferty scored again at 9:32 when his shot glanced off Winnipeg defenseman Anthony Bittetto’s skate. Then Guentzel beat Brossoit for his second of the game and fourth of the season at with 8:20 left to make it 6-2.
Aston-Reese scored his second of the game short-handed on a breakaway just 7 seconds into a Winnipeg power play with 5:14 remaining.
NOTES: Winnipeg finished with a 29-28 advantage on shots on goal. … The Jets had less trouble on their first meeting this season with the Penguins, walking away from PPG Paints Arena with a 4-1 win last Tuesday. … Patrik Laine picked up an assist on Scheifele’s goal but he couldn’t score despite one great chance right in front of Jarry that went high.
Penguins: Host Colorado on Wednesday night.
Jets: Host Arizona in the second game of a six-game homestand.
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