Rookie goalie Zatkoff earns first win as Penguins blank Columbus, 3-0
November 3, 2013 12:04 AM
Kris Letang and Columbus Blue Jackets' RJ Umberger fight for a loose puck during the second period Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Right wing isn't Deryk Engelland's position of choice.
He didn't ask to be moved off defense, and didn't request a job on the right side up front.
Of course, he hasn't asked to be moved out of that spot, either.
Which probably is just as well because, after seeing Engelland score for the second time in his past five games in the Penguins' 3-0 victory against Columbus Saturday night at Nationwide Arena, coach Dan Bylsma wouldn't go along with such a switch, anyway.
If keeping Engelland at right wing wasn't Bylsma's best personnel move of the day, that distinction surely belongs to his decision to give rookie goalie Jeff Zatkoff his third start of the season.
All three have come when the Penguins were involved in games on consecutive nights, but this is the first to end in a celebration for him.
Zatkoff turned aside 19 Columbus shots to record not only his first victory in the NHL, but his first shutout.
"I tried to not look at the clock and just focused on making the saves," Zatkoff said.
Columbus coach Todd Richards said, "We didn't test him," but that was a bit of an overstatement.
Zatkoff did, however, benefit from a strong performance by the guys in front of him
"Guys, you could see, were taking it upon themselves, blocking shots and stuff," center Sidney Crosby said. "They really took it upon themselves to play good defense for him and he made the saves he had to."
Bylsma said before the game that giving No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury the game off wasn't a tough call, because the Penguins were playing for the second time in 24 hours and Fleury had faced 39 shots Friday in their 4-2 victory.
Winger Matt D'Agostini was the Penguins' lone healthy scratch Saturday. Left winger Tanner Glass had been questionable after Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson fell on his leg in a run-in Friday night, but was in the lineup and played 11 minutes, 15 seconds.
Glass has rebounded nicely from a disappointing showing last season, but the biggest change for a blue-collar player on the Penguins has to be that of Engelland, who has gone -- if only temporarily -- from hard-hitting defenseman to goal-scoring winger.
He has not looked out of place since moving to forward, and seems to have instincts that allow him to get into dangerous shooting positions as plays are developing.
"He looks good," said Crosby, who knows a bit about instincts and the offensive aspects of the game. "That's not easy.
"To adjust like that and to do the job he's doing, he deserves all the credit for that."
Engelland put the Penguins in front to stay at 6:46 of the second period, when he took a feed from center Joe Vitale and beat Blue Jackets goalie Curtis McElhinney from near the right hash.
"He put it right in the wheelhouse, and I just shot it," Engelland said. "I wasn't picking a corner or anything. But it found its way in."
The other member of their line, Dustin Jeffrey, picked up the second assist for his first point of the season.
The Penguins got an insurance goal 47 seconds into the third period, when left winger Chris Kunitz backhanded the puck toward the Columbus net and Blue Jackets left winger Blake Comeau inadvertently deflected it past McElhinney.
There were no assists on the goal, Kunitz's eighth of the season.
That goal was significant because it gave the Penguins (11-4) a bit of a margin for error, but Zatkoff saw to it that they didn't need one.
The game was all but formally over well before Jussi Jokinen closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal 37.2 seconds before time expired.
Of course, that goal just padded the Penguins' margin of victory, as Kunitz's had, because Engelland -- who few figured would have more goals as a right winger than James Neal and Beau Bennett (combined) a month into the season -- had gotten the only one they needed.
And perhaps no one should be surprised if he gets a few more as he continues to settle into the position.
"Every game, it's getting a little bit easier," Engelland said. "You're not thinking quite as much. It's coming a little more natural. I'm just trying to do what I can."
And he's doing it a lot better than many people would have dared to expect.
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