Penguins notebook: Penalty kill preserves winning streak
The Penguins tried hard to derail a modest three-game winning streak Saturday afternoon by taking seven minor penalties, including four in a row in the first period.
The team's penalty kill unit saved them from themselves.
The Penguins shut down six of seven Detroit power plays en route to a 4-1 victory over the Red Wings at PPG Paints Arena, continuing a run of special teams success that has lasted more than a month.
The Penguins gave up two power-play goals in five of six games in a brutal stretch in the middle of November. Since, their penalty kill has a 91.3 percent success rate, tops in the Eastern Conference.
“I think we had a couple good meetings,” winger Carl Hagelin said. “Sometimes it's a thin line between doing good and doing bad on the PK. It's a matter of blocking shots. I think more importantly, we're being more aggressive and winning more battles. Before, we had some bad clears, and usually they score on that second opportunity. We're not giving them as much.”
Hagelin led the team with more than eight minutes of shorthanded ice time Saturday. Riley Sheahan, Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin topped the seven-minute mark.
“They're hard minutes,” Hagelin said. “I think it's good coming back off the break. Get a good workout, I guess.”
No hard feelings
Evgeni Malkin labored to the bench in obvious pain after taking a cross-check to the midsection from Detroit's Dylan Larkin in the second period Saturday.
Afterwards, Malkin said there were no hard feelings.
“It's not really dirty, but I lose my breath for 10, 20 seconds,” Malkin said. “I go to the bench, sit for a little bit in the back and it's fine. We talked after. He said he didn't see me, just protecting himself. It's OK.”
Rookie goalie Tristan Jarry bounced back from his worst NHL start, a five-goal, 14-save showing in 6-5 Penguins overtime win over Boston last Sunday, with a solid 29-save effort against the Red Wings.
“I think it was a good rebound,” Jarry said. “I just wanted to come back and play a solid game. I think I was able to limit the chances, keep my rebounds tight, and I think that was something that was able to help me tonight.”
Not breaking stride
Saturday's victory provided a little more evidence the Penguins seem to have mastered the art of rolling off a beach and into a competitive hockey game.
Since Mike Sullivan took over as coach in December 2015, the Penguins have gone through seven league-mandated breaks of at least three days or more — three for Christmas, two for the All-Star game and two for bye weeks.
They've won the first game back all seven times.
This season, they came back from Christmas with a 5-4 shootout win over Columbus. Last season, off their bye week, they routed Tampa Bay, 6-2.
Sullivan said his focus when coming off a break is to get his players into a competitive mindset as quickly as possible.
“How do we snap their attention and prepare them physically, obviously, because they haven't skated in a few days?” Sullivan said. “We tried to run a practice (Friday), for example, that wasn't overly long in length, but it was high in intensity. The reason for that is to try to prepare them for the intensity level of today, to prepare them for that competitive mindset that's necessary to win.”
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel is skating with the team as he recovers from an upper-body injury, but Sullivan said he was not yet ready to play Saturday. Defenseman Ian Cole was a healthy scratch for the second straight game.