Dominik Simon ends long goal drought in Penguins’ loss to Blues
The Pittsburgh Penguins came into March with three forwards lugging around lengthy goal droughts.
The third zero has finally been erased.
Dominik Simon scored his first goal in 21 games during the second period of a 5-1 Penguins loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s obviously always good when you score or (create) some chances or do something. It definitely feels good,” Simon said.
On March 1, Patric Hornqvist ended a 17-game drought. Six days later, Phil Kessel ended a 16-game scoreless streak.
Simon ended his when Hornqvist and Nick Bjugstad kept a puck alive during a scramble in the slot, and he scored on a turnaround shot between the pads of goalie Jordan Binnington.
The combination of Simon, Hornqvist and Bjugstad was probably the most effective Penguins line Saturday. When they were on the ice at even strength, the Penguins outshot the Blues, 7-1.
“When it’s not going in, you try to put pucks on the net, hoping for the best,” Simon said. “Even if it doesn’t go in, hoping for rebounds or something. Definitely it helps. Just gotta keep shooting and keeping putting it on the net.”
The first time the Penguins played the Blues this season, they went 4 for 4 on the power play and secured a convincing 6-1 victory Dec. 29.
On Saturday, the Penguins went 0 for 4 with the man advantage.
The difference? Probably goaltending. Binnington was sensational Saturday, making 40 saves. In December, Jake Allen stopped 13 of 17 shots before being pulled.
“He played really well,” Penguins goalie Matt Murray said of Binnington. “He was feeling it (today), for sure.”
While Bryan Rust (lower body) and Kris Letang (upper body) were full participants in practice Friday afternoon, they didn’t make their return Saturday.
When Rust returns, rookie Teddy Blueger’s stay as a top-six winger, skating with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on the second line, likely will come to an end.
In three-plus games in the spot so far, Blueger has recorded a pair of assists.
While that’s not headline news, Blueger has, by not looking out of place, bolstered his case for a prominent spot in the lineup next season and beyond.
“I think he’s done pretty well,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s a conscientious, two-way player. He can play center. He can play the wing. I think he does a good job helping those guys defensively, and he can make a play. We think he’s done a good job since he’s been there.”
Maatta making progress
With Rust and Letang close to returning, next up on the docket could be defenseman Olli Maatta, who has been out since Feb. 11 with a shoulder injury.
In recent days, Maatta has been skating pretty regularly on his own with skills coach Ty Hennes. Shortly after the injury occurred, the team announced Maatta would be out indefinitely.
“He’s progressing really well,” Sullivan said. “His status hasn’t changed. At some point, we’ll get him involved with the team skate, but it will only be when he gets the approval from our medical staff. But he’s making progress.”
Zach Aston-Reese (lower body) and Chad Ruhwedel (upper body) also remain out.
The Penguins honored Malkin with a pregame ceremony in recognition of his 1,000th career point. His mother, father, wife, son and Penguins owner Mario Lemieux joined Malkin on the ice. He was presented with a gold-plated stick and plaque made from metal from the roof of the Mellon Arena.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .