Zatkoff wins 1st as Pens continue to roll
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jeff Zatkoff did not see many shots Saturday night.
He stopped the ones he did, though, and as the Penguins' regular goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, said, “Who cares? Jeff got his win, and that's awesome.”
Equally impressive was the Penguins' defensive performance in a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Zatkoff made 19 saves for his first NHL victory — a shutout in front of a few members of an inner circle that he said is “from all over” the Ohio and Michigan areas.
Last week, in his second start, Zatkoff watched a Penguins' lead evaporate late in the third period of an eventual loss to the New York Islanders.
A lesson was learned.
“I was so worried about getting that win that I kind of stopped, lost a little focus,” Zatkoff said. “(Saturday) I just kept telling myself it's about the process: minute by minute, shot by shot. I tried not to look at the clock, just make saves. I don't think I looked up until that last timeout at about two minutes.
“It was a pretty long two minutes.”
It could be a long season for the Penguins' competition in the new Metropolitan Division.
The Penguins (11-4-0, 22 points) have won four consecutive games and are 6-1-0 in the division. The are seven points ahead of the second-place Islanders and 10 points clear of the third and final guaranteed playoff spot.
Players are quick to remind there is a lot of hockey left. Still, the Penguins already have wrapped about 18 percent of their 82-game schedule.
They also wrapped a home-and-home series sweep against a Blue Jackets squad that did not benefit from a home-ice advantage. A sellout crowd sounded half-full — at least — with Penguins fans, who provided their players a standing ovation as the final horn sounded.
Goals were scored by defenseman Deryk Engelland (his second) and wingers Chris Kunitz (eighth) and Jussi Jokinen (seventh).
Engelland's goal about seven minutes in the second period resulted from a quick-release shot that seemed to surprise him.
“I didn't really see where it was going, I was still looking down,” Engelland said, crediting center Joe Vitale with a pass from below the goal line. “He put it right on my tape. I just fired it.”
Engelland has played in nine games, but seven of those have been as a forward.
Coach Dan Bylsma laughed as he said two goals were not expected as part of the decision to use Engelland, a physical presence, at forward.
“He's looked pretty comfortable in those situations,” Bylsma said. “He looked like a pure sniper putting that one home.”
Bylsma's skaters looked like a steel trap, a noticeable turnaround after the Blue Jackets became only the second Penguins' opponent to top 60 shot attempts in a loss at Consol Energy Center on Friday night.
Columbus managed 40 in this defeat.
“A complete effort, and I think every guy would say it was one of his better games individually,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
The Penguins blocked 15 shots — only four fewer than saves Zatkoff was forced to make.
A native of Detroit and collegiate player at Miami (Ohio), Zatkoff was appreciative of teammates' effort.
“Anytime you play more … you're going to learn how the team plays in front of you,” he said. “The guys played unreal.”
Notes: Right winger Beau Bennett (lower body) will return to practice Monday. He was injured Oct. 12. … Right winger James Neal (upper body) could increase his activity this week, Bylsma said. Neal was injured Oct. 3.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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