PITTSBURGH — Saturday night, a Penguins game was stolen by a masked man once again.
This time, it was the Montreal Canadiens who were backstopped by an unflappable goalie, as Jake Allen outdueled Casey DeSmith to hand the Penguins a 6-3 loss at PPG Paints Arena. The loss snapped the Penguins’ five-game winning streak.
The finest of Allen’s 47 saves came in the third period when he robbed Evan Rodrigues with his glove to put Rodrigues in disbelief and keep the Canadiens on top.
Down at the other end, DeSmith didn’t do much to cease any concern about his play this season. Saturday’s loss was his fourth in as many starts this season.
With Tristan Jarry getting a well-earned breather, DeSmith made his first start in 14 days. Jarry, who led all NHL goalies in minutes played entering Saturday’s game, had started their previous seven games, in part because the Penguins wanted to ride the hot hand, but also because DeSmith had been shaky so far.
Prior to the game, coach Mike Sullivan praised DeSmith for maintaining a positive attitude even though he has mostly been a spectator throughout November.
“I think Casey’s done a real good job. His work habits in practice have been great. And he’s doing his very best to stay ready so that when he does get the tap on the shoulder, [he’s put] himself in the position to be successful,” Sullivan said.
How important was this start for DeSmith? Andy Chiodo, the first-year goalie coach, pulled up a chair in the first row of the press box to watch his every move during pregame warmups. Once DeSmith got hit with one last piece of rubber and left the ice, Chiodo swiveled out of his seat and headed down to talk to him.
Jarry, who in the eyes of his head coach is “playing his best hockey as a Pittsburgh Penguin,” had three shutouts in the previous five games to jump into the top five in the league in both goals-against average and save percentage. In his latest, Jarry made 25 saves in Friday’s 1-0 win against the Islanders in New York.
As exceptional as Jarry has been, the guys in front of him deserve praise, too.