Tristan Jarry was a few weeks shy of his 11th birthday when the Pittsburgh Penguins, led by a couple of teenagers named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, made the playoffs in the spring of 2007.
That marked the first of 15 consecutive years in which the franchise qualified for the postseason, including this campaign.
Jarry, now 26, doesn’t have a great recollection as to what he was doing at that time.
“Watching them,” Jarry quipped. “I was still pretty young. I was just watching them on TV. Other than that, I don’t remember.”
That doesn’t mean the Penguins goaltender is ignorant as to what his team needs to do in the final week of the regular season.
“Obviously, it’s exciting for us to be in the playoffs again, to get a spot,” Jarry said via video conference. “Now, it’s just about getting the best position possible.”
The Penguins took a big stride towards accomplishing that Saturday with a 3-0 road win against the rival Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena.
The victory pushed the Penguins into first place of the East Division with 71 points, and the Capitals sit in second with 69 points.
This success wasn’t unblemished, however. Defenseman Mike Matheson left the game at 16 minutes, 11 seconds of the second period after a clearing attempt by Jarry struck the left side of Matheson’s face. One of the Penguins’ most dynamic defensemen this season, Matheson left the ice with blood dripping from his face. Coach Mike Sullivan did not provide an update on his status after the game.
A pair of unassisted goals by Penguins forward Bryan Rust opened the scoring.
His first goal came only 2:56 into regulation. After Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway failed to keep a puck inside the Penguins blue line, Rust chased it down as it slid into Washington’s zone.
Attacking the net, he fired a wrister that slipped under goaltender Ilya Samsonov’s glove on the far side for his 21st goal of the season.
Rust cashed in again 26 seconds into the second period. After blocking a shot by Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov, Rust generated his own breakaway, deked Samsonov out of position and tucked in a forehand shot for his 100th career goal.
“It’s definitely pretty cool,” Rust said via video conference. “It’s not that easy to score in this league. To get 100 is definitely a cool milestone.”
Forward Jeff Carter collected his slightly less celebrated 394th career goal, and 12th of the season, to put the Penguins up by a field goal at 10:43 of the second.
After that, Jarry stymied whatever opportunity the Capitals had in getting on the scoreboard, particularly in the final 3:49 of the second period when they generated five shots after Matheson’s departure.
He finished with 23 saves to earn his second shutout of the season (and second in six days).
“There was a whole lot of chances that we gave up there in the second period, and he was unbelievable, diving around, making great saves,” Rust said. “You can see it, he’s just calm, cool and confident in there right now.”
Right now, the Penguins sit in first place. With a pair of games each against the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres remaining on their schedule, they are focused on still being there by next week.
“We’re just playing for the home-ice advantage going into the playoffs,” defenseman Cody Ceci said. “We’ve got four games left. We’re going to make a push for that.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .