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PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby picked up his sixth goal of the season, Tristan Jarry stopped 31 shots and the Pittsburgh Penguins held off the New York Islanders 4-1 on Thursday night.
Teddy Blueger, Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust also scored for the Penguins, who collected just their third regulation victory of the season to bounce back from a dismal loss to Washington on Tuesday.
Semyon Varlamov made 33 saves for the Islanders and Brock Nelson scored late to help the Islanders avoid being shut out, but New York’s three-game winning streak came to a halt thanks to a second straight strong performance from Jarry.
The Penguins and Islanders finish their two-game set on Saturday night. The teams meet again in New York on Feb. 27-28.
Jarry, a surprise All-Star last season, has struggled at times in the first month after becoming the team’s No. 1 goaltender after two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray was traded last fall. Jarry’s listlessness, however, appears to be behind him. He was Pittsburgh’s best player while making 39 saves against the Capitals and he backed it up with three impressive periods against New York as the Penguins improved to 6-1 at PPG Paints Arena.
Some solid play in front of Jarry helped. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan — as is his custom following a particularly blah stretch of play — tweaked his lineup, moving Kasperi Kapanen to the top line along with Crosby and Jake Guentzel while sliding Rust to the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Zucker.
It paid immediate dividends.
Crosby gave the Penguins the lead 4:15 into the game, though Kapanen did most of the grunt work, stripping the puck from Nelson in the right circle. Kapanen turned and fired at the net as he fell to the ice. Crosby’s deft redirect in the 999th regular-season game of his career gave the Penguins — who have spent much of the opening quarter of the season playing catch up — a lead.
For once, it stuck, though Varlamov did his best to keep New York in it. He turned aside Pittsburgh’s flurry during an extended two-man advantage. Despite not scoring, the Penguins used the momentum to keep carrying the play, and Blueger gave them a two-goal advantage with a tap-in 18:01 into the second.
The goal came at the end of a spectacular play by defenseman Mike Matheson, whose start in Pittsburgh following an offseason trade with Florida has been iffy at best. Matheson missed the first nine games due to an injury but is starting to grow more comfortable, and it showed during a flashy sequence in which he intentionally sent a slap shot from the top of the zone off the end boards then raced to the slot to pounce on the long rebound. He attempted to stuff it by Varlamov, but the puck trickled through to the other side of the crease, where Blueger stood all by himself.
The closest the Islanders came to cutting into the deficit came early in the third during a 2-on-1 shorthanded breakaway. Cal Clutterbuck’s shot, however, smacked off the crossbar. Clutterbuck briefly raised his hands in celebration believing the puck went in. Play continued, however, and when Zucker took a behind-the-net feed from Rust and slipped it by Varlamov 9:11 into the third, the Penguins were on their way to just their second multiple-goal win of the season.