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DeSmith making the most of his starts

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pekka Rinne. Jaroslav Halak. Casey DeSmith. 

Those three names top the NHL's leaderboard in goals-against average at 1.55, 1.77 and 1.89 respectively.

Rinne. Halak. DeSmith. 

Those three names top the NHL's leaderboard in save percentage at .949, .945 and .942 respectively.

Those three names are joined by Marc-Andre Fleury and Keith Kinkaid as the only goalies in the league to post two shutouts this season.

"I definitely take pride in my numbers," DeSmith said. "That's a very good way of keeping track of how you're playing and the success you're able to have in a year. … It's obviously a team game and I can't perform without the team playing well. Anything that my numbers say, that's a lot of credit to the team, too."

The Pens haven't played as consistently this season as they have in the recent past. Mired in a four-game winless streak and with a showdown against the defending Stanley Cup champions on the road, the Pens made the surprise decision to start DeSmith over regular starter Matt Murray against Washington on Wednesday. 

"When you look at Casey's overall body of work in the early season it's been really strong," head coach Mike Sullivan reasoned. "He's played extremely well for us to this point. He's given us a chance to win on most nights."

"As the backup that's my job, just to show up when I get the chance," DeSmith said.

DeSmith gave the Pens a chance after stopping 20 of 22 shots against, limiting the NHL's No. 1 offense to just two goals. However, Pittsburgh still suffered its fifth straight loss in a 2-1 final.

Thanks to his effort between the pipes, DeSmith was given another start on Saturday against Arizona. This time around, DeSmith was perfect.

The Rochester, New Hampshire native turned aside all 39 shots he faced to record his third career shutout and help the Pens snap their five-game skid with a 4-0 victory. The 39 shots against and 39 saves are both career highs.

"This was a team shutout, this was a team win," DeSmith said following the game. "It's the statement win that everybody wanted and everyone needed to feel good and turn the ship around a little bit."

DeSmith did his part with several highlight reel saves, including a split save on a 2-on-1 against Vinnie Hinostroza and stopping Michael Grabner from point blank in the blue paint.

Video: ARI@PIT: DeSmith makes 39 saves for third NHL shutout

"I thought he made some big saves in the game during the first half of that game," Sullivan said. "They had a couple of high-quality chances. Casey made some big stops."

It's been a long road to the NHL for DeSmith, who was originally signed to a minor-league deal in 2015 and was allocated to Wheeling of the ECHL. Three years later he made his NHL debut for Pittsburgh.

"I always knew I had the skills and confidence in my game," DeSmith said. "At every level, I've bumped up, I've kind of maintained that confidence."

Today, he delivered a much-needed victory for the team, and proved that when called up, he can be "the guy."

"I want to prove that I can be an everyday starter in this league," DeSmith said. "That's something that I've always wanted as well as making it to the NHL."

DeSmith said his goal was to make the most of his starts. Judging by his ranking around the league, he's accomplished that goal so far. But don't expect him to rest on his laurels.

"You're never quite satisfied," DeSmith said. "Even though I feel like I'm here now and I'm part of the team, you always want to be out there for your team, helping them win."

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