WASHINGTON (AP) – Bryan Rust scored two unassisted goals, Tristan Jarry made 23 saves, and the Pittsburgh Penguins shut out the Washington Capitals 3-O Saturday night to reclaim first place in the East Division.
Trade deadline pickup Jeff Carter also scored his fourth goal in 10 games in a Penguins uniform. Rust’s goals were the 99th and 100th of his NHL career, and Jarry registered his second shutout of the season.
Two nights after each team clinched a playoff berth, this potential postseason preview looked awfully lopsided. The Penguins pounced on opportunities and scored on three of their first 13 shots against Ilya Samsonov to suck the life out of the crowd of just over 2,000.
But it was also far from the complement of talent either team would want in a playoff series. Because of lower-body injuries, the Capitals didn’t have the captain and leading goal-scorer Alex Ovechkin and top defenseman John Carlson. The Penguins remained without forwarding Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Tanev with injuries that have kept them out for several weeks.
But Pittsburgh hasn’t slowed down. With captain Sidney Crosby inching into the MVP discussion, the Penguins have won 16 of 23 games without Malkin and look like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
The Capitals didn’t get the savings they needed from Samsonov either when Garnet Hathaway fell down on Rust’s first goal or when Dmitry Orlov couldn’t get back after the puck bounced off him on Rust’s second.
The Penguins got five saves from Jarry two minutes late in the second period when the Capitals were buzzing. Jarry got his left pad on a shot by Anthony Mantha driving to the net and slid over to deny Evgeny Kuznetsov to keep it a shutout.
Pittsburgh went into the season with a goaltending question after trading Matt Murray to Ottawa and turning the duties over to Jarry and Casey DeSmith. Now Washington might have a problem in the net since neither Samsonov nor Vitek Vanecek has any playoff experience.
No team since 1945 has won the Cup dressing goalies in the playoffs who combined for fewer than 100 regular-season starts. Samsonov and Vanecek will likely have 77 between them.
Malkin’s return could be imminent, and coach Mike Sullivan just wants the Russian star center to “play his game” when back on the ice.
“Obviously, there’s going to be an adjustment process for Geno. He’s been out for quite a while now,” Sullivan said, acknowledging it’s difficult to simulate game intensity in practice. “Our hope is that with each game that he plays, he’s going to get back to his true form that we all love watching.”
OVECHKIN STILL OUT
Ovechkin missed a fourth consecutive game, his most extended injury absence since 2009. He and Carlson took part in an optional practice Friday and the morning skate Saturday but weren’t deemed healthy enough to play.
Penguins: Visit the Philadelphia Flyers for back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday.
Capitals: Play at the New York Rangers on Monday and Wednesday.