Granted, the soft-spoken goalie knew the bar wasn’t particularly high. Not after giving up four goals – most from relatively harmless shots – in a Game 1 loss to the New York Islanders.
Two nights later, Jarry looked like the player whose regular play helped propel the Penguins to the Eastern Division title. Strong at the start and stoic at the finish, Jarry turned back 37 shots as Pittsburgh tied the series with a 2-1 win over the Islanders on Tuesday night.
“I mean, it’s his old self, it’s his game,” Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson said of Jarry. “This is what we expect from him. I don’t think that’s anything out of the ordinary for him, as crazy as it sounds. He’s playing at such a high level for us, to call that his standard is pretty impressive and is a testament to how good a goalie he is. “
The win was the first of the playoffs for Jarry as the Penguins won for just the second time in their last 12 playoff games.
The third game is Thursday night in New York.
Jarry, in his first season as Pittsburgh’s undisputed No.1 goaltender after two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray was traded last fall, stressed that he had not tried to complicate matters. things after four periods sometimes uncertain in the first game.
“I was playing just like that lied,” Jarry said. “It’s a big thing for me, I’m just trying to stop whatever comes my way, do my best and try to get in the way. “
The Penguins needed Jarry to get past each of them during a tense third period as they held a one-goal lead.
The last 90 seconds were the toughest after a late-game penalty from Pittsburgh forward Bryan Rust gave the Islanders their only power play of the night. Still, Jarry deflected a wrist flick from Oliver Wahlstrom with 1:12 to go and the biggest crowd to watch a game in Pittsburgh in 14 months expired when the final horn sounded.
“It was probably the greatest moment of our season so far and (the penalty kick) has passed,” said Matheson.
Rust and Jeff Carter scored in a dominant first period, and Jarry did the rest to beat Semyon Varlamov of New York.
Varlamov, unavailable for the first game, made 43 saves, including several highlighting saves in the third period to keep him close. Josh Bailey’s slick backhand in the latter stages of the second period drew the Islanders into a goal, but unlike in Game 1, this time around there wouldn’t be a full-fledged rally.
“I just thought (the Penguins) had more desperation in their game,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought we were a bit light in some areas. We haven’t made it difficult enough for them. We just have to raise our level. We have that. “
New York had a stunning 4-3 in overtime in Game 1 on Sunday, taking advantage of Jarry’s sloppy play on their left side (glove). The Penguins insisted there was no time to panic, expressing confidence in both Jarry and their ability to bounce back.
And just like the first game, Pittsburgh came out flying.
Energized by the biggest crowd at PPG Paints Arena this season after COVID-19 protocols were relaxed to allow 50% capacity, the Penguins overwhelmed the Islanders in the opening 20 minutes, even with Russian star Evgeni Malkin who found herself once again with an undisclosed health problem.
Varlamov looked a bit rusty when he left for the first time in over a week. Rust gave the Penguins the 3:22 lead when he jumped on a New York turnover and shot a wrist shot over the right circle that found its way over Varlamov’s glove and into the net.
Carter, who has been electric at times since acquiring Los Angeles at the trade deadline, scored the 40th playoff goal of his 16-year career at the end of a streak in which linemates Kasperi Kapanen and Jared McCann did the heavy lifting.
Kapanen chased the puck into the corner and returned it behind the net to McCann while absorbing a failure. McCann then centered it on Carter, who patiently dragged him through the lunge before beating Varlamov between the legs.
Much like they did on Sunday, however, the Islanders seemed to find their place as the game progressed. A pair of listless second-period Pittsburgh power plays brought New York to life, and Bailey tore a backhand over Jarry’s shoulder at 2:46 p.m. to draw the Islanders into one, just as they stepped into the third period of the opening match.
Yet this time the Islanders even shoot. The Penguins withstood an early push from New York and retaliated effectively to avoid falling into a potentially lethal 0-2 hole.
“We are a team built on resilience and showing its face in many forms,” said Rust. “I think our guys are doing a really good job focusing on hard hockey and just trying to do the right things. “