PITTSBURGH — The cavalry has started to arrive for the Penguins, and not a moment too soon.
Without several regulars, a couple of them former All-Stars, they won just three of their first 11 games coming out of the NHL’s Christmas break. They got outplayed at 5-on-5. Their special teams suffered. They didn’t get timely saves.
But Friday night they welcomed back Tristan Jarry and Jeff Petry and immediately reaped the benefits. Those two helped the Penguins build a 3-0 lead against the Ottawa Senators at PPG Paints Arena and then skate away with a 4-1 win.
Jarry made 46 saves in his return. Petry, meanwhile, picked up an assist, paced the Penguins in ice time and made an impact on both special-teams units.
Pittsburgh is still waiting for a few other key contributors to return. But getting back their starting goalie and highest-paid blue-liner made them closer to whole.
It also didn’t hurt that the Penguins got a couple of goals from Jake Guentzel.
Friday was a rematch of Wednesday’s game in Ottawa, which the Senators won in overtime, 5-4, after the Penguins took a season-high nine penalties in regulation and allowed four power-play goals, their most since November 2018.
After a humdrum start to the game, Brock McGinn gave the Penguins a jolt and ignited the crowd when he leveled Erik Brannstrom, then answered the bell against his revenge-minded teammate, Travis Hamonic. The Penguins emerged from that bout with a power play. Rickard Rakell converted to make it 1-0.
Petry’s presence was evident on that scoring sequence. The power play was at its pinnacle this season when Petry was on the point. His quick decisions pushed the other four guys to pick up the pace. And he had a shoot-first mentality. On Friday, he simply let a half-slapper go and Rakell smacked in the rebound.
Just 43 seconds later, Jason Zucker pushed it to 2-0 with an awesome individual effort. He bounced off a Jacob Bernard-Docker check then emerged from behind the Ottawa net to flip a shot over the right pad of Cam Talbot, who was looking the other way. Zucker has tallied a goal in three consecutive games.
The Penguins needed Jarry to be sharp, and he delivered after they grabbed that two-goal lead in the first. The Senators made a strong push, but Jarry was there to punch out Brady Tkachuk’s shot from the left circle and later flashed his right pad to turn away Alex DeBrincat. He made 13 saves in that frame.
The “Jarry! Jarry! Jarry!” chants started in the second period after he made a few saves and fired clear down the ice while the Penguins killed a penalty.
Jarry missed seven games after he suffered a lower-body injury early in the Winter Classic in Boston and had to exit the game. Despite a few lackluster performances from backup Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh went 3-3-1 in Jarry’s absence.
Guentzel scored off the rush with 2:48 left in the second period to make it 3-0.
Brady Tkachuk spoiled Jarry’s shutout bid late in the period, on Ottawa’s 26th shot. Tkachuk stiff-armed Sidney Crosby as the two raced through the neutral zone then, after his right glove fell off, banked a shot in off of Marcus Pettersson.
The Penguins got a fluky insurance goal from Guentzel in the third. He attempted a backdoor pass to Crosby but it hit Bernard-Docker’s stick and ramped in.
Jarry earned more cheers from the crowd for his efforts on a third-period kill.
He made 21 saves during the final period to secure the victory for the Penguins. DeSmith’s crunch-time numbers were poor during his recent stint as the starter. So the Penguins surely appreciated having Jarry back and playing with poise.
— The Penguins had to make a few roster moves Friday to activate Jarry and Petry. Kris Letang was placed on long-term injured reserve to create the salary cap space but he can be activated from LTIR as early as Sunday. They also returned Dustin Tokarski and Taylor Fedun to their American Hockey League club.
— With Petry back in the lineup after missing 16 games with a wrist injury suffered Dec. 10 against Buffalo, Ty Smith was the odd man out on the blue line.
— The Penguins also placed Kasperi Kapanen and Jan Rutta on injured reserve. Kapanen, who played Wednesday in Ottawa, will be sidelined week to week with a lower-body injury. Danton Heinen took Kapanen’s spot in the lineup.
— Pierre-Olivier Joseph played against his brother, Mathieu, for the first time in the NHL. The Senators scratched Mathieu, a forward, for Wednesday’s game.
— Top-line wingers Guentzel and Bryan Rust got banged up on consecutive shifts in the second period. Guentzel got hit in the face with a puck but didn’t miss a shift. Moments later, Rust labored to the bench after a collision and soon disappeared down the tunnel, but he quickly returned to set up Guentzel’s goal.
— Rust also got hit in the face with a puck in warmups and needed first aid.
The Penguins will practice at noon Saturday in Cranberry ahead of a Metropolitan Division battle against the Devils. That is Sunday at 2 p.m. in New Jersey.
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