PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins have spent much of the last month fending off injuries and erratic and occasionally uninspired play.
The return of goaltender Tristan Jarry and defenseman Jeff Petry provided a welcome reminder of what the Penguins can be when they’re closer to full strength.
Jarry made 46 saves in his return from a lower-body injury and Petry picked up an assist and skated a team-high 25:25 following a 16-game absence due to an upper-body issue as the Penguins raced past Ottawa 4-1 on Friday night.
“I’ve had a little bit of time off,” said Jarry, who hadn’t played since getting hurt in the first period of the Winter Classic against Boston on Jan. 2. “So obviously it’s never easy having to watch games and it’s never easy having to watch guys go out every night and give it their all and you can’t be out there with them.”
Jarry wasted little time getting up to speed. The Senators peppered him at times, yet the two-time All-Star hardly looked rusty as Pittsburgh took the back half of a home-and-home series with Ottawa.
“He’s got such a calm demeanor in there,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “He makes some difficult saves sometimes look routine and that’s when he’s at his best.”
Jake Guentzel scored twice for the Penguins to reach 20 goals for the sixth straight season. Rickard Rakell added his 17th and Jason Zucker his 13th as Pittsburgh beat the Senators for the 11th straight time at home.
“It feels good,” Guentzel said. “Guys that played big minutes (are coming back) and our No. 1 goaltender (too). It’s special to have them back.”
Brady Tkachuk had his 16th goal for the Senators and Cam Talbott stopped 40 shots but couldn’t quite match Jarry while losing for the fifth time in his last six starts.
“Obviously, we’d like to score more goals,” Ottawa forward Derick Brassard said. “The goalie was hot tonight. It was his first game back. I think he fed off of a lot of that energy.”
Pittsburgh went just 3-3-1 during Jarry’s absence, though Zucker said the issue wasn’t the goaltending play of backups Casey DeSmith or Dustin Tokarski as much as sloppy play in front of them.
There were no such issues with Jarry aggressively cutting off angles or using his stick to break up power-play chances.
Rakell and Zucker scored 43 seconds apart in the first to give the Penguins an early 2-0 lead. Guentzel’s 19th goal with 2:48 made it 3-0. Tkachuk’s goal late in the second briefly gave Ottawa life but couldn’t fully blunt Pittsburgh’s momentum.
“It’s just frustrating when you’re shooting so much and have chances,” Brassard said.
Penguins defenseman P.O. Joseph and older brother Mathieu, a forward for the Senators, lived out a childhood dream when they played each other for the first time in the NHL.
Neither player recorded a point, but they did enter the box score together when they drew coincidental high-stick penalties while their parents, Frantzi Joseph and France Taillon, watched from the stands.
P.O. Joseph sheepishly admitted his brother probably didn’t deserve a penalty, admitting he may have accidentally high-sticked himself.
“I don’t know if they thought this is going to be funny or something that we’re both going to get a penalty at the same time,” Mathieu Joseph said. “But stuff happens. I’m sure my parents had a good laugh about it, but I didn’t think it was funny.”
NOTES: Letang wore a non-contact jersey while participating in Pittsburgh’s morning skate and could be nearing a return. The 17-year veteran has been out since late-December with a lower-body injury.
Senators: Begin a two-game homestand on Saturday against Winnipeg.
Penguins: Travel to New Jersey on Sunday.