Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evan Rodrigues (9) celebrates his hat trick with Bryan Rust (17), the Penguins scored six goals in the first period at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Sun Jan 2, 2022 (AP News photo)
By Mary Walsh
The San Jose Sharks started 2022 off on the road, losing 8-5 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The victory marked the Penguins’ eighth win in a row. Evan Rodrigues and Bryan Rust each came away with hat tricks for the Penguins.
Kasper Bjorkqvist and Jake Guentzel scored the balance of the Pittsburgh goals, while Casey DeSmith made 22 saves for the win. Alexander Barabanov, Brent Burns, Matt Nieto, Jacob Middleton and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks. James Reimer made 11 saves on 17 shots in the first period before being replaced by Zach Sawchenko, who made 20 saves on 21 shots.
The Penguins scored four goals in the first 6:09 of the game, and went on to score two more before the end of the first period. “It snowballed on us. We couldn’t stop it. We tried to call time out, we tried to switch things out, but it was ugly,” said Sharks Head Coach Bob Boughner after the game. He summarized the game as: “You score five goals on the road, you should at least come out with a point. So I think that speaks to a couple things on our side.”
Boughner praised his rookie goaltender, Zach Sawchenko:
“Young guy, never played a [NHL] game before, you know, going in to a 6-1 game in a building like this against a team like this. I thought he showed a lot of character, I thought he battled hard for us, and he gave us a chance to come back.”
Sawchenko allowed just one goal, and that one on the power play, in his two periods in net.
The first Pittsburgh goal, at 1:09, came from Evan Rodrigues. The Penguins had a two-on-one into the zone. Rodrigues got around Radim Simek and took a shot between the defenders that got by Reimer on the stick side. Assists went to Marcus Pettersson and Danton Heinen.
Jake Guentzel scored at 3:12. Rust made a pass across the ice, through the blue paint and Guentzel sent it right back to the net. Assists went to Rust and Sidney Crosby.
Rodrigues scored his second at 4:11. On another odd-man rush, Rodrigues carried the puck all the way to the net before lifting it in with a backhand shot. Assists went to Heinen and Dominic Simon.
Bryan Rust scored at 6:09. He took the shot from low in the slot. There was some traffic in front of the net, but no one between Reimer and Rust. Assists went to Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin.
Barabanov scored one at 15:33. Timo Meier sent the puck to the net aloft. Barabanov knocked it out of the air and the slipped it around the goaltender. Assists went to Meier and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Kasper Bjorkqvist scored his first NHL goal at 16:29. Radim Zohorna sent the puck into a mass of bodies at the net. The puck went to Bjorkqvist who had dropped to a knee and was ready to nudge it back in. Assists went to Zohorna and Sam Lafferty.
Rust scored his second of the game at 19:32. He took the shot from the blue line into net traffic. It bounced over Reimer on the stick side. Assists went to John Marino and Marcus Pettersson.
The Sharks replaced Reimer to start the second period, putting rookie Zach Sawchenko into his first NHL game with the team down 6-1.
Brent Burns scored the only goal in the second period, with a blast from the blue line. The goal came on the power play at 14:27. Assists went to Nick Bonino and Noah Gregor.
Matt Nieto scored just 20 seconds into the third period with a carom off the end boards that went off of DeSmith and in. Assists went to Jacob Middleton and Andrew Cogliano.
Jacob Middleton scored at 3:01 with a redirection of an Erik Karlsson shot from the point. Assists went to Karlsson and Meier.
Logan Couture brought the Sharks within one goal at 4:09. Meier centered the puck out of traffic along the boards and Couture was ready to shoot it in.
Evan Rodrigues scored his third of the night at 17:59 on the power play. Rodrigues’ shot went past Erik Karlsson and between Jake Guentzel’s skates before getting to the net. Assists went to Kris Letang and Bryan Rust.
Bryan Rust scored into an empty net at 19:49. Assists went to Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel.
The Sharks were out-shot 39-27 in the game. They won 66% of the face-offs. The Sharks penalty kill allowed four shots and two goals. Their power play had one shot and one goal.
The Sharks next play on Tuesday in Detroit against the Red Wings at 4:30 PM PT.