As Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry skated off the ice for the last time this season, New York Islanders fans said goodbye by mockingly chanting his name, as they had done all series at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders eliminated the Penguins with a 5-3 victory in Game 6 on Wednesday night, and for the second straight game, Jarry was the story. The goalie gave up five goals on 24 shots in a game in which the Penguins had the lead three times, only to surrender it each time.
Jarry's Game 6 effort followed the Penguins' Game 5 loss in which Jarry's turnover led to the Islanders' double-overtime game winner to give New York a 3-2 series lead.
Jarry finished the series with an .888 save percentage and a 3.70 goals-against average in six games. His counterpart, Islanders rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin, had a .943 save percentage and a 1.95 goals-against average in going 4-0 in four starts.
Analytically, the Penguins were the better team in Games 5 and 6 with an expected goals percentage of 66% in Game 5 and 63% in Game 6. In both games, Jarry was below average, with Game 6 being his worst of the series. According to Evolving Hockey data, Jarry had a minus-3.33 expected goals saved above average.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, when asked about Jarry's performance, emphasized that Pittsburgh lost as a team.
"Listen, you win games as a group," he said. "You win games as a team, you lose games as a team. It's not any one position. It's not any one person's fault. Everybody's doing their best to be part of the solution. There's a number of things that go on during the course of games. We can all be better. We gotta support one another through the process."
When asked if there had been any discussions about pulling Jarry from Game 6, Sullivan said, "I'm not going to discuss the discussions we have as a coaching staff or the decisions we make at any position."
Jarry struggled in five of the six games. In Game 1, he surrendered four goals, including unscreened shots by Kyle Palmieri and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He rebounded in Game 2 with a 37-save effort in the Penguins' win, but he gave up four goals on 30 shots in Pittsburgh's Game 3 victory. He was soft in Game 4, giving up four goals on 26 shots.
But it was his efforts in Games 5 and 6 that garnered the most scrutiny. With the series tied 2-2, it was Jarry's gaffe 51 seconds into double overtime that cost the team. An errant Penguins pass went all the way back to Jarry, who left his crease to play the puck. He passed it right to Islanders forward Josh Bailey, who ended the game with a goal off the turnover.
His coach and teammates came to his defense after the Game 5 loss.
"We have total confidence in Tristan," defenseman Mike Matheson said. "I think he's one of the best goalies in the league and he proves that night in and night out. I don't think anybody has any doubt in his ability."
Sullivan added: "It's hard to win in pro sports, and it's going to challenge your every being, whether it's mentally, physically, emotionally. We're all going through that process each and every day. But I believe in Tristan. We believe in Tristan."
The Penguins didn't have any alternative to Jarry in the series. Backup Casey DeSmith, who appeared in 20 regular-season games, was unavailable because of a lower-body injury. Maxime Lagace, who has 18 games of NHL experience and no playoff appearances, served as Jarry's backup.
Jarry has two more years remaining on his contract, which carries a $3.5 million cap hit.
The Penguins exit the playoffs after finishing first in the East Division with a 37-16-3 record. The Islanders have won eight of their past 10 playoff games from Pittsburgh, eliminating it in two of the past three postseasons. The Penguins have won only one playoff series since capturing their most recent Stanley Cup in 2017.
"If you look at the series against the Islanders a couple of years ago, they were close games and we never really got comfortable in that kind of game," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "In this one, we did a lot of good things. We had the lead. We felt comfortable in our game. We didn't feel like we were on our heels at any point. It's such a small margin for error. I feel like I didn't make a big play, whether it's overtime or adding to a lead when we're up. Those are so important."
Crosby said he still believes the core of this Penguins team can compete for the Stanley Cup.
"There's zero doubt in my mind that the group that we have is a really good group," he said. "That's why it stings so much."