OTTAWA – Jake Guentzel tried to corral the puck, but it wasn’t quite cooperating. So as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward raced in on New Jersey goalie Mackenzie Blackwood in the middle of the second period on Friday night, Guentzel kept his stick on the ice and hoped for the best.
“It’s just kind of a cluster there when you lose a puck like that and you’re on a breakaway,” Guentzel said. “Just tried to get him to cheat over and it worked.”
As tends to happen when Guentzel is in close, particularly at home.
Guentzel managed find enough control to deke from his forehand to his backhand and back again, getting Blackwood to bite in the process. Guentzel tapped the puck into the open net for his team-leading 11th goal of the season — and seventh at PPG Paints Arena — to give the Penguins all the momentum they would need in a 4-1 victory.
“We’re playing well,” Guentzel said. “I think our record might not show some games that we’ve played well in but I think our top to bottom lineup, we’re just playing well and we’re filling spots and guys are stepping up big, so I think it’s been good.”
Guentzel has three goals and three assists during a four-game point streak that started shortly after Pittsburgh lost captain Sidney Crosby for at least six weeks following surgery to repair a sports hernia. The Penguins’ top line has kept rolling anyway as Guentzel, Rust and Evgeni Malkin have combined for eight goals and 12 assists in the five games since Crosby went down.
“I think they kind of feed off each other,” Pittsburgh defenseman John Marino said. “They always kind of know where they are. They’re always in the right position.”
And they’re getting help. Marino and Jared McCann scored 25 seconds apart in the third period to chase Blackwood. Dominik Kahun added his sixth goal in 11 games as the Penguins snapped a four-game winless streak at home against New Jersey. Tristan Jarry trimmed his goals-against average to 1.81 by stopping 36 shots, weathering an early second-period surge from the Devils then coasting after Guentzel’s pretty move.
Taylor Hall notched his third of the season for New Jersey.
Blackwood made 30 saves before being removed in favor of Louis Domingue early in the third period after giving up goals on back to back shots.
Senators 4, Rangers 1
In Ottawa, Thomas Chabot had a goal and an assist, Anders Nilsson stopped 30 shots, and the Senators trounced New York, exttending their winning streak to a season-hihg three games.
Logan Brown, Tyler Ennis and Anthony Duclair also scored for Ottawa, which has won seven of its last nine and has 23 points in 23 games (11-11-1) this season,
“I think we’re playing some really good hockey,” said Nilsson, who has won his last four starts at home while allowing just five goals in that stretch. “You saw the way we played (Friday) and especially the way we played in the first period. We came out and had one of the best periods all year in the first and shut them down completely.”
Jacob Trouba scored for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 35 saves.
New York has been going through its own struggles and Lundqvist admitted New York could take a page from the Senators’ playbook.
“They work hard and that’s why they’ve been winning,” Lundqvist said. “If you look at their record the last few weeks, they win because they work really hard and pay attention to the details within their game. They earn their wins.”
Ottawa got off to a fast start, scoring twice in the first 6½ minutes. Chabot got the Senators going just 57 seconds in with his first goal in 17 games, and Brown scored on the power play at 6:32 for his first NHL goal.
“That’s something I’ve dreamt about my whole life,” said Brown, who was playing his 15th career game. “Especially the past couple weeks with all the unlucky bounces I’ve had. I’ve been thinking about getting that one.”