PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – After picking up a 6-3 victory Thursday in Dallas, the Winnipeg Jets were unable to carry the momentum over to the eastern time zone.
Carl Hagelin scored twice while Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Jets 4-1 Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
“We’re going to have to defend better than that,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “Our goaltender made two or three great saves in that game, but I think those goals… We’ve got to learn how to play better defensively.”
The Penguins opened the scoring with two quick goals in the first minute of the second period.
Kris Letang got things rolling with his 10th of the year as he stepped into a shot from the top of the right circle, beating Michael Hutchinson high over the glove. Then, just 23 seconds later, Carl Hagelin tipped home an Ian Cole shot from the centre point.
Off a feed from Trevor Daley, Sidney Crosby had a chance to put the Pens up by three later in the middle frame, but Hutchinson came up with the save of the year, diving across and getting the blade of his goal stick on a shot that destined for the net.
“I thought the player was going to shoot it from the slot, so he kind of faked me out a little bit there,” Hutchinson said. “He passed it over and my eyes got as big as saucers when I saw it was Crosby over there with a wide open net. I just threw my stick out and hoped for the best.”
Blake Wheeler cut the deficit to one with his team-leading 18th as he got a piece of a Dustin Byfuglien point shot, deflecting it down, between the legs of the Penguins goalie.
“We started off doing it the right way,” Wheeler said. “I thought we frustrated them a little bit, but then we got caught a couple times, gave up a couple odd-man rushes and they made the most of those opportunities. From there we were playing catch-up, and it’s tough on the road playing from behind.”
The Jets thought they’d tied it not long after, but after a scramble in the blue paint, the play was blown dead – after the puck entered the net. It was determined the officials had “intended” to blow the whistle earlier, nullifying the goal and nullifying any review.
“I don’t know that it changed the emotion of the game, but it certainly changed the score and the pressure point for us,” Maurice said. “To be able to tie that would have been real important for the style of game that had to be played after it.”
Jacob Trouba was one who scored, but the referee waved it off immediately.
“I can’t do anything to change that, so it’s nothing for me to worry about,” he said. “That’s how it goes and it happens to every team. It’s up to us to bounce back and find a way to recover from it.”
Drew Stafford sprung Mathieu Perreault on a breakaway early in the third, but Fleury stood tall once again, challenging the shot before absorbing it in the breadbasket.
The Penguins put it away just moments later when a long shot from Derrick Pouliot was tipped in front by Scott Wilson, restoring the two-goal lead at 5:19. Hagelin then put the Pens up by three with 9:58 to play as he hammered a one-timer short side.
“It just came down to the little battles,” Trouba said. “We just let a couple get away from us at the end. We’ve got to find a way to buckle down in the third period.”
The teams were tied 0-0 after one, thanks in large part to the play of Hutchinson, who was making back-to-back starts for the first time in three months.
His best of the period came near the 10-minute mark he made the initial block on a blast from Hagelin, then scrambled across to make a sparkling toe save on the rebound, leaving a befuddled Phil Kessel looking skyward. He followed it up just a few minutes later when he squared up and made a tough save on Evgeni Malkin look effortless, then rounded out the opening frame with a beautiful stop on Tom Kuhnhackl, who split the defence and had quick look in alone.
Kuhnhackl had another glorious chance early in the second, but Hutchinson came up with another of many incredible stops, going into the splits and robbing the forward with his right pad.
Shots on goal favoured the home team 9-8 after 20 minutes of play.
“He made some great ones tonight,” Wheeler said of his goalie. “He gave us an opportunity to win and that’s all you can ask of your goalie an in environment like this.”
Hutchinson finished with 29 saves.
LATE HITS: Marko Dano played his first game with the Jets after being acquired Thursday from the Chicago Blackhawks. Dano finished the night with two shots in over 12 minutes of ice time alongside Adam Lowry and Joel Armia.
“(I liked) a lot of the decisions he made with the puck,” Maurice said. “He put the puck two or three times in the middle to Lowry. He understood the pressure, he executed those, he laid it off at the right time coming through the neutral zone, he got on the puck and was fairly strong on it.
“There were a lot of emotions for that young man coming in – but instead of running all over the ice, he looked smart and made smart plays.”
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com