Tristan Jarry Benched as Penguins Rally Falls Short Against Capitals

Jarry was pulled from the game after the Capitals went up by 3 goals in the first period.
Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins / Justin Berl/GettyImages

Scroll through social media and you might get the wrong idea about Pittsburgh Penguins' goalie Tristan Jarry.

Despite what you read, he's been pretty solid this season, except for a few rough patches. Last night's game against the Washington Capitals was one of those times. But let's be real, Jarry wasn't the only one struggling out there.

The Penguins, in a crucial face-off against their long-time rivals, the Capitals, ended up on the wrong side of a 4-3 score. It wasn't for lack of trying, though. After a sluggish start where they let in three goals quicker than you can say 'power play,' the Penguins found their groove.

Thanks to Rakell's sharpshooting, they punched in a goal and turned up the heat in the second and third periods. They were skating hard, shooting sharp, but as the final buzzer sounded, time just wasn't on their side.

This loss isn't just a number in the 'L' column. It's a big deal in the scramble for a decent spot in the Metro standings. So, we've got to ask: what exactly went sideways for the Penguins last night?

Jarry Struggles Early in the Game

Tonight was a tough one for Tristan Jarry, and Penguins' head coach Mike Sullivan didn't hesitate to pull him after the Capitals slammed in three goals without a reply.

Anyone watching Sullivan on the bench could see he was more than just a bit miffed. And who could blame him? Jarry's save percentage was a dismal .571 before he got the hook. In the world of hockey, that's like scoring an F on a test.

Sullivan didn't sugarcoat it in his post-game presser, saying, “I didn't think Jars had his best." That's putting it mildly. The Penguins were like a car stuck in reverse from the get-go, always chasing the game and running out of road despite some golden chances to even the score, or heck, even pull ahead. But it just wasn't in the cards, and Jarry's rough night was a big reason why.

But let's not dump all the blame on Jarry. The defense was about as sturdy as a house of cards, especially around the net. Take Ryan Graves, for instance. He played a starring role in the Capitals' goal-fest.

Sullivan's take on Graves was pretty telling: “We’re trying to find ways to get him going.” With the season already deep, that's a bit like trying to fix the barn door after the horse has bolted. Graves' performance was, to put it lightly, underwhelming.

Jan 2, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) prepares
Jan 2, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) prepares / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What's Next for the Penguins?

Here's the deal: we took care of the New York Islanders twice last week and dealt with the St. Louis Blues like pros. The hope was to keep that streak going against the Capitals and climb up the standings. But, as I'm writing this, the Penguins are still stuck in 7th in the Metro, and it feels like we've been here forever.

What's on the horizon? The Pens are hitting the road to face the Boston Bruins, who are sitting pretty at the top of the Atlantic Division. Then it's back home to take on the Buffalo Sabres, followed by a road trip against the Philadelphia Flyers, who are lurking in 4th in the Metro. These aren't just regular games; they're critical. The Philly game? That's a must-win, no two ways about it.

I saw some real fight in last night's loss, but we've got to tighten up. Those early period meltdowns, letting in goal after goal? That's got to stop. The Penguins aren't out of this fight, not by a long shot. But if we want to make a real run for it, it's time to start turning those 'almosts' and 'maybes' into solid wins.