It has been a rough start to the season for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ locker room. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jeff Carter, and Bryan Rust were already confirmed to be out of the lineup on Saturday evening against the Toronto Maple Leafs when the team discovered defenseman Kris Letang would also be forced to sit out as well.
Penguins’ head coach Mike Sullivan told members of the media following the team’s morning skate on Saturday that Letang would be out as a result of being placed in the league’s COVID-19 protocol. It remains to be seen just how long Letang will be out for, but his presence will surely be missed on the ice.
However, the Penguins did receive some good news the day before when they learned that goaltender Tristan Jarry was cleared to play after providing a “false positive” Covid test. He ultimately got the start for the Penguins against the Maple Leafs, helping his team earn two crucial points by making 28 saves on 29 shots.
Despite being decimated with injuries, the Penguins embarrassed a skilled Toronto team at PPG Paints Arena by picking up a 7-1 win.
“We’ve been in this situation before with a lot of guys missing, and we’ve always talked about having that next-man-up mentality,” said Penguins’ defenceman Marcus Pettersson who had a goal and an assist on the night. “When we have a great system to rely on and everybody trusts it, I think it shows, and it did tonight.”
Getting important victories without some of their biggest superstars in the lineup is critical for the Penguins’ success this season as it allows the team to rest them more and ensure they aren’t being rushed back from injuries.
“No one looks for excuses,” Sullivan said. “I think everyone rallies around it and tries to make a difference in the game. Different players step up at different times. For me, that’s what brings teams together, that’s what galvanizes groups.”
The win ensured the Penguins have picked up at least a single point from their first five games of the season, winning three and losing two in overtime. Pittsburgh are proving themselves to be a deeper team than most had originally anticipated coming into the campaign.
“It’s a good opportunity for me to play a little more minutes in a game like tonight, so I tried to make the most of it, but not change the way I play,” said Penguins forward Drew O’Connor who had the first multi-goal game of his young career.
The Penguins will look to continue to get the job done short-handed when they take on the defending Stanley Cup champions the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday evening. It’ll be Pittsburgh’s fourth consecutive game at PPG Paints Arena as they look to impress their hometown fans once again. They will be playing their next five games on home ice, so they will be hoping that their raucous fans can make up the lack of players in the starting lineup.