When a team that has trouble scoring faces a team that has no trouble whatsoever putting the puck in the net, the team with the anemic offence will probably have some stress.
The Winnipeg Jets had a great deal of stress in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
The Pittsburgh Penguins certainly showed the Jets what an upper echelon hockey club looks like as Winnipeg was pasted 4-0 by the home side. With the win, Pittsburgh won its 14th consecutive game and has now won 11 straight at home, The Penguins also improved to 27-8-0, first in the Eastern Conference by seven points over the second-place Montreal Canadiens.
Despite the loss, the Jets are now 18-15-2 and remain in first place in the Southeast Division, third overall in the East. However, were the Jets not first in the Southeast, they would be seventh in the East.
For Pittsburgh, Chris Kunitz opened the scoring in the first period with his 20th goal of the year and the Jets had no answer. Evgeni Malkin, in his return after missing nine games with an injury, scored his eighth at 18:32 of the first and the teams went to the first intermission with Pittsburgh ahead 2-0.
In the second period, Pittsburgh got a pair of goals from Pascal Dupuis, one at 4:12 and one at 18:37 shorthanded as the Penguins started to make it a rout.
In the third period, Pittsburgh simply checked the Jets into the ice in a game that ceased to be in doubt after the first period. After the game, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma called his top line of Crosby, Kunitz and Dupuis, “the best line in hockey.” All you have to do is check the stats: Crosby has 11 points in what has become a six-game point-scoring streak and now has a 12-point lead over No. 2 Kunitz for the NHL scoring lead.
Although the Penguins acquired superstar winger Jarome Iginla on Thursday morning, he did not get out of Calgary in time to play in Thursday night’s game against the Jets. Didn’t matter, the Penguins were much the better team in this one, even without him. In fact, the Pens shut out an opponent for the second consecutive game and have allowed a mere nine goals in their past 10 outings.
Dupuis finished with two goals, Kunitz had a goal and an assist and Sidney Crosby had two assists. Goalie Tomas Vokoun picked up an assist on Dpuis’ shorthanded goal and made only 20 saves to get the 50th shutout of his career.
Although the Jets were able to hang with the Penguins for the first 15 minutes, it became apparent late in the first period that Winnipeg just didn’t have enough offence to compete with the best team in the East — a team that can not only score, pretty much at will, but also stop the opposition from scoring. Pittsburgh not only leads the NHL in goals scored with 121, the Pens also lead the Conference in plus-minus differential at plus-37, tied with Chicago for the overall league lead.
The Jets did get a break on Thursday night. The Toronto Maple Leafs ripped the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3 in Toronto so the Jets still lead Carolina by six points in the race for first in the Southeast.
The Jets will return home to Winnipeg to face the Hurricanes in a huge four point game on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at MTS Centre. If you don’t have a ticket, the game can be seen on TSN Jets TV.