WINNIPEG, Manitoba – As Penguins embarked upon a five-day, three-game road trip through Canada, the season was already approaching a critical inflection point.
Historically, Thanksgiving has been a pseudo deadline for establishing which teams are contenders and which will be sellers. From 2013-to-2017, for example, 77.5% of teams in a playoff spot on turkey day went on to clinch a berth.
Breaking news. Just in case your invite to Uncle Donny’s house, somehow, got lost in the mail, Thanksgiving is Thursday. And the Penguins? They crossed the border having lost eight of 10 games and sitting in second-to-last in the Metro Division.
How quickly things can change.
On Monday night, the Penguins overcame an early deficit to beat the Winnipeg Jets, 3-1, behind goals from Danton Heinen, Jason Zucker and Jake Guentzel (empty net) and a 30-save night from Tristan Jarry.
The Penguins (8-6-4) return home having captured all possible six points. In the process, they reinforced their recipe for success, built confidence in their goaltender and, just maybe, began to show what this team can be when fully healthy,
During the first two legs of the trip, Pittsburgh played two of their most-complete games of the season, back-to-back. The Penguins thumped the Montreal Canadiens, 6-0, on Thursday night and followed it up with a 2-0 victory over the Maple Leafs on Saturday. In both instances, the score was reflective of the effort, as the Penguins played with speed, furious puck pursuit and commitment to a two-way game.
Riding the momentum of their first two-game winning streak, the Penguins entered Canada Life Centre to find a fast and physical Jets team backstopped by one of the game’s best netminders, Connor Hellebuyck, and playing with the urgency of a club that lost two in a row.
Jarry earned the nod in net, his fifth consecutive appearance, after shutting out the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. The streak ended at the 10:27 mark in the first period. A Jets shot from the point hit traffic in front. As the loose puck laid in the slot, Dominic Toninato scooped it, spun and whipped it past Jarry.
The goal ended Jarry’s streak after 161 minutes and 33 seconds of perfect action.