The Pittsburgh Penguins finally found a reason to feel good, and on Tuesday night, they don’t want to immediately give that feeling back the way their next opponent did recently.
That foe, the visiting Vancouver Canucks, lost their third game in a row last Tuesday, 6-2 against the New York Islanders, with a performance the Canucks widely panned.
Vancouver followed that loss with a 4-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, and it seemed all was good.
Until it wasn’t.
Sunday, in the first game of a five-stop trip, Vancouver slipped into familiar but decidedly unwanted habits in a 7-4 loss at Winnipeg.
“You should be able to win games all day when you put up four,” Canucks defenseman Luke Schenn said.
Not when two goaltenders combine to give up seven goals. Twice Vancouver erased two-goal deficits, but then had defensive lapses and gave up a goal late in the second and two in the third.
“We’re not defending, I guess, hard enough, or it just kind of seemed we were giving up a lot of big chances,” Canucks forward J.T. Miller said. “It’s hard to play catch-up all the time. We didn’t play 60 minutes. We’re talking about the same stuff all year, about stringing together good performances.”
Goaltender Spencer Martin entered Sunday’s game in relief of Collin Delia with the Jets up 4-2. Vancouver pulled even before Martin gave up the next three.
“It’s disappointing that we can’t finish it,” Martin said.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, finished its game Sunday strong, halting a six-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes.
“We played hard. We played the right way,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “It’s a real important win for us no matter how you get it.
“We’re trying to get this thing back on the tracks and playing the game with confidence that we know this team is capable of playing with. … I think we needed to feel good about what went on out there.”
Pittsburgh now needs to avoid the backslide that Vancouver experienced after a feel-good win.
“It’s all about how you bounce back,” Penguins center Teddy Blueger said. “The focus is kind of shifting more toward that and responding the right way and trying to build something positive here to get things rolling in the right direction.”
Pittsburgh had scored one or two goals in four of the six games in their skid, so getting four and holding on to a lead went a long way.
Half of those four goals against the Coyotes came from sniper Jake Guentzel after the top-line left winger had uncharacteristically gone eight games without scoring. And he did it in characteristic fashion – by hanging around the net.
“I don’t think anybody was overly worried about him,” fellow winger Bryan Rust said. “He’s a special player in this league. He’s going to get his goals.
“His confidence will go through the roof after (Sunday).”
While it’s not clear which goalie will start for Vancouver after both played Sunday, the Penguins are expected to stick with Casey DeSmith, as No. 1 goaltender Tristan Jarry did not join the team for the past two games.
Jarry was back in Pittsburgh rehabbing a lower-body injury.
–Field Level Media