ShareThis Page

Justin Schultz's return helps ignite Penguins in win over Coyotes

Jonathan Bombulie
| Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, 9:51 p.m.

Recovering from a concussion while his teammates were on a western road trip, defenseman Justin Schultz spent the better part of the last week cooped up alone in his house.

When he finally was set free Tuesday night, he took it out on the Arizona Coyotes.

Schultz scored a first-minute goal, and the Penguins snapped a two-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory at PPG Paints Arena.

As effective as it might have been, Schultz said he has no plans to lock himself up in solitary confinement for another week before any upcoming games.

"No, because that was torture," said Schultz, who missed the previous six games. "It was just good to be back with the guys. It was tough being here alone. To get back into games, it was awesome."

Schultz's goal came on a bad-angle one-timer from the left-wing corner 59 seconds into the game.

Seeing the puck bank in off the skate of goalie Antti Raanta was a welcome sight for the Penguins. During their 1-3-1 western road trip, opposing goaltenders had a .954 save percentage against them.

From coach Mike Sullivan's perspective, though, the best thing about Schultz's return might have been the way it allowed the Penguins to manage minutes on the blue line.

Kris Letang, off to a rough start to the season, has been averaging more than 26 minutes per game. On Tuesday, he played a more favorable 23 minutes and change.

"It's a big difference," Sullivan said. "It gives Tanger an opportunity to recover more completely before he's going back on the ice. It gives him an opportunity to play more quality minutes."

After Schultz gave the Penguins an early lead, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel teamed to secure the victory. They each had a goal and two assists.

In the third period, after Tobias Rieder pulled Arizona within a goal, Malkin and Kessel connected to score on the Penguins' sixth power-play chance of the game. Kessel waited for a popped-up Malkin shot to fall below the crossbar behind Raanta before slashing it into the net.

In the first period, Malkin cashed in the airborne rebound of a Kessel shot from the right wing.

When Malkin scored, it gave the Penguins more than one five-on-five goal in a game for the first time since Oct. 17.

"We played lots of power play, lots of offensive zone and scored a couple five-on-five goals," Malkin said. "It's very important for us, for sure. Now maybe we'll have more confidence and score more."

While Sullivan insisted he saw steady improvement in his team's five-on-five play over the previous three games, he said it was important for the Penguins to be rewarded with a win.

"We can talk about process all we want," Sullivan said. "We've got to get results at some point."

A special teams discrepancy also played a significant role in the outcome of the game.

While the Penguins went on the power play six times, the Coyotes had just one man-advantage and didn't score on it.

Former Penguins assistant Rick Tocchet was critical of his team's inability to stay out of the penalty box.

"The PK did a hell of a job," Tocchet said. "We got some zone time, a little bit, but you can't give that team (12) minutes of power plays."

Tocchet said he was moved by an ovation the arena crowd gave him after a tribute was played on the video board during the first period.

"This is a great place. I love it here," Tocchet said. "A lot of good memories. I saw a lot of people before the game. It was nice. A lot of classy people around here."

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray makes a save agains the the Coyotes in the second period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray makes a save agains the the Coyotes in the second period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins' Ian Cole checks the Coyotes' Christian Dvorak in the second period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Ian Cole checks the Coyotes' Christian Dvorak in the second period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray clears the puck away from the Coyotes' Mario Kempe in the second period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray clears the puck away from the Coyotes' Mario Kempe in the second period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins' Jake Guentzel fights for the puck with the Coyotes' Jason Demers in the first period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Jake Guentzel fights for the puck with the Coyotes' Jason Demers in the first period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin puts the puck over the shoulder of Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta in the first period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin puts the puck over the shoulder of Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta in the first period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins' Phil Kessel celebrates with Evgeni Malkin after Malkin's goal against the Coyotes in the first period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Phil Kessel celebrates with Evgeni Malkin after Malkin's goal against the Coyotes in the first period Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.