Short-handed goal brings ‘energy’ to Rust, Penguins in win over Oilers
The Pittsburgh Penguins hold the distinction of giving up the most short-handed goals in the NHL this season.
They have taken steps lately to counter that dubious accomplishment by becoming among the league leaders in scoring them.
Bryan Rust’s short-handed goal at 2:30 of the second period erased a one-goal deficit and sent the Penguins on their way to a 3-1 victory Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers at PPG Paints Arena.
The goal was the ninth short-handed one for the Penguins this season, pushing them into the third spot in the NHL. Only Calgary (16) and Arizona (12) have put the puck in the back of the net more frequently when playing with a man-disadvantage.
The Penguins have scored a short-handed goal in three of their past four games.
“I think it gives us a lot of energy,” Rust said of scoring short-handed. “I think it goes through the lineup. I’m not sure how long after that we scored (again), but I don’t think it was too long.”
Less than four minutes later, Teddy Blueger scored his third goal of the season to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead that they held until the final minute of regulation when they got an empty-net goal from Jared McCann.
Rust has scored twice on the penalty kill this season, the other coming Jan. 8 against Florida. On this one, he scored on the backhand after collecting a puck that Matt Cullen was working below the goal line.
The goal avenged Rust’s first attempt earlier on the penalty kill when he pushed a shot wide after getting the feed from Cullen.
“The first shot was kind of embarrassing, but I stayed with it,” Rust said. “Cully make a nice play, and I was able to sneak it in there.”
The goal seemed to jolt the Oilers, who admittedly were caught off guard by the sequence of events that led to Rust’s goal.
“They surprised us,” Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We didn’t see it on tape, and they jumped it. Usually that’s not how they play it, but they did this time and scored because of it.”
The Penguins were short-handed because Tanner Pearson was penalized for closing his hand on the puck. With the Penguins already trailing 1-0, they faced the prospect of falling behind by multiple goals, especially if they made any mistakes and were caught in the Oilers zone while being short-handed.
“There is a fine line,” Rust said. “You can’t be cheating. You can’t be expecting offense, but when the time for it comes, you have to take advantage of it.”
Rust did, scoring for the fourth time in the past two seasons while playing on the penalty-killing unit. His job in such situations, after all, is making sure the Penguins don’t give up any goals. Scoring them while playing short-handed is a bonus.
“You’ve got to just work hard, pay attention to details on the kill,” he said, “and when you get a chance, don’t be afraid to take it.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.