PITTSBURGH (AP) — Stefan Noesen called his first NHL goal in nearly nine months luck.
The veteran forward spent an uncertain offseason following an uneven tenure in New Jersey looking for a job before signing a minor-league contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Yet rather than sulk about being forced to play in the American Hockey League after five seasons in the big time, Noesen went to work. He had 14 goals in 22 games, earning a call-up on Monday to help the injury ravaged Penguins.
The boost arrived late in the second period against St. Louis on Wednesday, when Noesen camped in front of Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington and slammed home a rebound off Jared McCann’s shot to help propel Pittsburgh to a 3-0 victory.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan called it a “Patric Hornqvist-type” goal, a nod to the injured forward who’s carved out a career by being a nuisance in front of the opposing net. It’s a compliment Noesen will greedily accept if it keeps him in Pittsburgh for an extended period.
“Here it seems like you have a little bit longer of a leash in a sense.,” Noesen said. “Whenever you’re able to do that and make plays, you don’t have to hold your stick as tight. I get to be me.”
Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots to post his third career shutout as the Penguins drew a measure of revenge after getting blown out by the defending Stanley Cup champions last weekend by snapping the Blues’ 10-game road point streak.
“He was terrific,” Sullivan said of Jarry, who has won four of his last five starts. “He made some big saves for us throughout the course of the game. He was good on our penalty kill … I think he was playing with a lot of confidence.”
Teddy Blueger scored 39 seconds into the game to give the Penguins the early lead and Alex Galchenyuk’s second of the season early in the third period gave Jarry all the cushion he would need.
Jordan Binnington finished with 30 saves for St. Louis, but the Blues couldn’t quite match the franchise record 11-game road point streak set during the 1999-2000 season.
“We gave up too many chances,” St. Louis coach Craig Berube said. “We had chances, but their goalie was good. In the end we didn’t deserve to win the game. We didn’t come out with enough urgency in the game and they made us pay for it. That’s basically what it boils down to.”
The Penguins are playing with a patchwork lineup missing a handful — actually more than a handful — of key contributors. Forwards Sidney Crosby, Nick Bjugstad, Bryan Rust and Hornqvist and defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz all out of the lineup due to injuries and defenseman Jack Johnson was a late scratch after falling ill before the opening faceoff.
Pittsburgh, however, survived thanks in large part to Jarry, who withstood a major second-period push from the Blues to hand St. Louis its first regulation road loss since Oct. 26. Some responsible play in front of him helped as Pittsburgh’s defense rarely let the Blues get opportunities from in close.
“I think everyone is buying in to the team concept,” Sullivan said. “When we do that, we can win on any given night regardless of who is in the lineup.”
Blueger gave the Penguins the early lead when he deflected Marcus Pettersson’s point shot over Binnington’s left shoulder for his third of the season and first since Oct. 22. Pittsburgh peppered Binnington relentlessly but Binnington hung in there and St. Louis responded with sustained pressure in the second against a group of Penguins defensemen that included Chad Ruhwedel, Juuso Riikola and Zach Trotman — who had played 25 games combined coming in.
Jarry put together a series of sharp saves to preserve the lead and Noesen’s late tally with just 39 seconds left in the second provided a jolt from which the Blues couldn’t recover.
“It changes the game, kind of,“Binnington said. “I have to do a better job of sealing the net there and not letting any in.”
Galchenyuk, who had scored just once in his first 18 games with Pittsburgh after being acquired from Arizona in a blockbuster offseason trade in exchange for popular forward Phil Kessel, broke in alone on Binnington and stuffed the puck over Binnington’s blocker 4:59 into the third.
NOTES: St. Louis scratched D Robert Bortuzzo and F Austin Poganski. … Rust skated on Wednesday morning and could be nearing a return after getting hurt during practice on Friday. … St. Louis went 0 for 4 on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 5 with the man advantage.