The Pittsburgh Penguins ended their regular season in style, defeating the Buffalo Sabres 1-0. There are two players that made this win possible. Center Jeff Carter and goaltender Maxime Lagace stole the show as their play was impeccable. Carter’s goal combined with Lagace’s shutout simply proved to be too much for the Sabres. As a result, the Penguins clinched first place in the MassMutual East Division.
The Veteran Is Making It Look Easy
Jeff Carter is looking like an absolute steal for Pittsburgh. The Los Angeles Kings traded Carter to the Penguins in exchange for a conditional 2022 third-round pick and a conditional 2023 fourth-round pick. As if that wasn’t enough, Los Angeles is also retaining 50 percent of Carter’s salary which eased the pain of picking up his $5.27 million contract.
At the time, fans were expecting a bigger splash at the trade deadline. After all, with the team getting older, adding a 36-year-old center was a fairly confusing move. If there were any doubters then, there sure aren’t any now. Carter has been lighting up any opposition the Penguins face. In the 14 games that Carter has played for the Penguins, he has only put up two assists. However, that amount is fairly negligible as he has scored nine goals, including five goals in his last two games.
With the Penguins heading to the playoffs, Carter’s goal scoring ability is going to be paramount to their success. Furthermore, his experience is going to help immensely. Carter was a big part of the Kings’ Stanley Cup wins in 2012 and 2014. Although the Penguins aren’t short on players with playoff experience, it never hurts to add some more, especially one who is accustomed to winning.
First Game As A Penguin, First Career Shutout
Pittsburgh’s goaltending tandem has been solid this season. With Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith between the pipes, any team would feel confident. However, with both Jarry and DeSmith injured fans were unsure who they were going to see in net. It seemed that the frontrunners for the starting position was going to be either Emil Larmi or Alex D’Orio. Instead of giving either one of these goalies their NHL debut, Pittsburgh opted to choose a goaltender with NHL experience.
Maxime Lagace was given the nod to start. Even though he does have NHL experience, this was going to be his 18th game in his entire career. The last game Lagace started was Feb. 1, 2019, when he was still a member of the Vegas Golden Knights. Despite this, Lagace still put on quite the show.
Lagace was on his A-game, turning aside all 29 shots he faced. With how he handled himself, Lagace could have been confused for an NHL regular. When Sabres’ forward Drake Caggiula stole the puck from Penguins’ defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and turned on the jets for a breakaway, Lagace was up to the challenge. As Caggiula dragged the puck from his backhand to his forehand, Lagace expertly covered his five-hole with the paddle of his stick, preventing the game from becoming tied.
With Jeff Carter lighting the lamp and reliable goaltenders like Lagace, the playoffs are starting to look hopeful. If Carter continues this kind of production, he’s going to be invaluable to Pittsburgh this postseason. If injuries continue to plague the Penguins, specifically the goalies, fans can rest easy knowing that Maxime Lagace will be up to the task.