ST. LOUIS — Tristan Jarry for three days had waited for reality to set in, that he was actually an All-Star, standing shoulder to shoulder with some of hockey’s brightest stars. It finally hit him Saturday night, when that first shot hit his pads.
The Penguins goalie made his NHL All-Star Game debut for the Metropolitan Division team with the score tied, 4-4, at halftime of their first-round matchup against the Atlantic Division. Less than a minute into the second half, Jarry had to slide across to stop a one-timer by Ottawa forward Anthony Duclair.
“When they first came down and made that first pass across, that was the biggest realization that I was out there and how fast it was all happening,” he said.
Jarry then stuffed Toronto’s Mitch Marner on a 2-on-1. He stopped the first four shots he faced before the Atlantic Division team buried three of the next five.
He kicked out his right pad to deny Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk and keep the Metropolitan Division in the game. But the Atlantic scored an empty-netter to seal a 9-5 win. That would be it for Jarry, Kris Letang and the Metro team.
Letang was held without a point. Jarry stopped eight of the 11 shots he faced.
“They had a lot of shots, and I tried to stop as many as I could,” he said. “It was fun to be a part and be out there with some of the best players in the world.”
The 20-minute game flew by. But it was a memorable weekend for Jarry, who had his parents and his billet family from junior hockey at Enterprise Center.
Jarry’s experience took off Thursday at Pittsburgh International Airport, where he joined a few Penguins staffers on a commercial flight to St. Louis. As he sat waiting to board, he went mostly unnoticed by his fellow passengers, some of them sporting Penguins gear. He was asked to sign only a few autographs.
He had a harder time flying under the radar once he arrived here, with his name and his picture popping up all over the place around town.
“I’m usually one of the quiet people on the team,” he said. “I don’t really like too much attention. So being in front of it all, it’s definitely been a change.”
At the All-Star Game media day in St. Louis on Thursday evening, Jarry reflected on the long road to Pittsburgh, which hasn’t exactly been a superhighway.
Four months ago, Jarry was competing with Casey DeSmith for the chance to back up Matt Murray. The Penguins also were open to trading the pending restricted free agent in the right deal. Jarry stuck around, made the most of his occasional starts and eventually elbowed Murray out of the crease.
Since Dec. 1, Jarry is 11-4-1 with a .929 save percentage. He currently ranks in the top two in the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. Two weeks ago, he was named to his first All-Star Game as an injury replacement.
During Friday night’s NHL All-Star skills competition, Jarry mostly watched from near the benches and chitchatted with Letang and other Metropolitan Division players such as Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
“Just being from the same region that I am, we’re Western Canadian kids, so it was cool to meet him. I’ve watched him play for a long time,” Jarry said. “He was very open. I asked him a lot of questions about the weekend and what we’d be doing. And he’s been through it many times. So he helped me a lot.”
He also picked up a pair of keepsakes he plans to cherish forever. He got one of his goalie sticks autographed by the Eastern All-Stars and another by the West.
The only contest Jarry competed in Friday was the “Save Streak” challenge, where the eight All-Star goalies tried to stop the most breakaways in a row.
“I just tried to play how I normally would in games and to get in front of it and stop as many as I could,” said Jarry, whose save streak was stopped at four.
Jarry spent about as much time babysitting Letang’s son, Alex, as he did stopping pucks. Jarry kept the 7-year-old busy while Kris took his breakaway.
Jarry finally worked up a little bit of a sweat Saturday, after first getting heckled for a few minutes by Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty during the first half.
“I did see him but I tried not to make eye contact,” Jarry deadpanned.
Jarry held his own during the Metropolitan Division’s only game, making a few nice saves on odd-man rushes. He may wish he could have a couple of those goals back. But all and all, it was a successful first All-Star Game for Jarry.
Now, he will return to Pittsburgh, rest up for a few days then try to build upon his All-Star experience as the Penguins resume their playoff push Friday.
“It’s nice to know that I’m able to do it, I’m able to be here,” the 24-year-old goalie said. “I think just moving forward, [I’ll just try] to get better from it.”
Matt Vensel: email@example.com and Twitter @mattvensel.
First Published January 25, 2020, 7:54pm