CALGARY, Alberta - For a goaltender, there is nothing more challenging than a breakaway, going mano-a-mano against an opposing player.
Well, there is something more challenging.
A 2-on-0, though a very rare occurrence, is probably the most difficult scenario for a goaltender to face, going mano-a-dos (is that right?).
Regardless, that was exactly the scenario that Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry found himself in late in the second period of 4-1 victory against Calgary at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang hobbled to the bench, unbeknownst to blueliner Jack Johnson, as Pittsburgh had the puck heading up ice. Johnson, thinking he had support behind him, stepped up to try and keep an offensive zone possession.
But once Dillon Dube chipped it past Johnson, he and fellow Flame Milan Lucic had no one in between them and Jarry.
Then came a sequence of passing between the two forwards. Dube to Lucic to Dube to Lucic. Jarry held his ground on the initial passes, but was forced to zig then zag on the last two passes.
Jarry slid to his right as Dube received the puck, then Jarry pushed off to his left, keeping his pad flushed to the ice to deny Lucic on his shot.
"Just play the shot," Jarry said of his thought process. "I've had a few in the last three games, and every one I've played differently. I'm making sure I played the shot and getting over as quick as I can when he passed it."
When it comes to timely saves, it doesn't get timelier than that. Pittsburgh had a slim 2-1 lead with 2:20 minutes remaining in the second period. The stop allowed the Penguins to escape with a lead entering the second intermission.
"(Jarry) was unbelievable," said forward Bryan Rust, who scored the game-winning goal. "The 2-on-0 save was something that ended up winning us the game."
That save may have been the difference for a Penguin team that had to gut out a win with only five defensemen after Justin Schultz suffered a lower-body injury on his first shift of the game. Pittsburgh added to empty-net goals at the end, but the game was tight for the 58 minutes.
The 2-on-0 stop was simply the tip of an iceberg for Jarry, whose entire game was another brilliant display in a long string of impressive performances for the 24-year-old netminder. He was really at his best in the first period as the Penguins were out-matched, out-possessed and outshot, 17-6. But all Calgary had to show for their efforts was a 1-0 lead.
"Quite honestly it might have been our worst period of the year," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "But we got big saves from Tristan."
Jarry has taken his game to new heights in the past month, setting a franchise record shutout streak of 177:15 minutes while boasting three shutouts in a four-game sequence.
"He's been terrific," Sullivan said of Jarry's recent play. "He's making big saves for us. He's seeing the puck. His rebound control is great. He plays the puck really well. Every aspect of his game is locked in."