PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Pens bounced back from a bad loss to the Capitals to bury the Islanders 4-1 Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena. A sixth win in seven games at home this year.
Kapanen Finally on Top Line
After mostly dismal play from the second line this year, the Pens shook it up before Thursday’s game. They moved hot forward Bryan Rust to the second line and replaced him with Kasperi Kapanen.
“We are trying to find some balance through our lineup,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “We were trying to make some adjustments so we could get more effective balance through the four forward lines. I thought tonight it was effective. That’s what it’s going to take to win consistently.”
Kapanen battled three Islanders for a puck at the left wing circle early in the first and his shot deflected by Sidney Crosby for the first goal of the game.
Second line erupts
Jason Zucker would score midway through the third to give the Pens a 3-0 lead off assists from Rust and Evgeni Malkin.
“We were just trying to get that chemistry back,” Zucker said. “We started training camp with some good chemistry and kind of lost it. We’re just trying to get that back and I think tonight was a good step in that direction.”
Rust would score an empty netter at 16:54 off an unselfish assist from Zucker.
“Honestly, I feel like that’s the right thing to do,” Zucker said. “Geno made a great play coming out of the zone. Bryan beat his guy up the ice. We all get a point. We are all happy. We try to get everyone a touch in that situation.”
The second line finished with six points.
It was the best game for defenseman Mike Matheson with the Penguins. He had an assist, four takeaways and was a plus four.
“I thought Mike had a really strong game on both sides of the puck,” Sullivan said. “You can see his skating ability and how effective it is.”
He had the primary assist, actually should have had two assists on Teddy Blueger’s goal. Matheson shot it off the boards, followed his own shot. He shot again, and that deflection went right to Blueger. Who buried it into an empty net.
"It was just kind of an instinctual play,” Matheson said. “It's wasn’t really something that I was looking to do before the game. They're so good at blocking shots, so I was just trying to get a lane by them."
Jarry near shutout
Jarry gave up a power play goal late in the game already up 3-0. Other than that, Jarry stopped 31 shots including 25 in the first two periods.
“I think just working at it,” Jarry said of his improvements. “Working on it in practice and making sure my habits are good. I think that’s where it comes from.”
“I thought Tristan was solid,” Sullivan said. “I think he’s really making strides. He looks much more comfortable in the crease.”
“When your goaltender is comfortable and making plays for your team. It has a psychological impact in a positive way on the group in front of him. I think Tristan is doing that for us right now.”
The defense and forwards did a nice job of clearing space in front of the net as Jarry had a clear view of most of the 31 shots.
Trotman sent down
He underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus on January 15, now Zach Trotman heads to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to resume playing. The 30-year-old appeared in eight games with the Pens last year. He’s played in 91 career NHL games.
With the Pens in the AHL last year, Trotman played in 27 games with 4 goals and 10 assists.
Forward Frederick Gaudreau was reassigned to the Taxi Squad. The former Nashville forward was active on February 11, but a healthy scratch for those three games.
Pens play their final home game on the month on Saturday against the Islanders. Then their first trip to Washington next Tuesday and Thursday and a return visit to New York for weekend games with the Islanders.