Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins’ 3-2 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 at CONSOL Energy Center.
1. FULL 60
The players in the Pens locker room were confident they would bounce back after a lethargic Game 1. And man, did they come out flying to start Game 2. The pace they played with to open this game was fantastic. But despite absolutely dominating the first period, the Pens came out of it tied 2-2 after they failed to convert a couple of late power plays and Matt Murray allowed a goal to Jonathan Drouin that he said he should have had. The Pens could have gotten discouraged there, but they didn’t. They grinded it out through the second period and began to make a push towards the end, and took over the game in the third. Sidney Crosby said their group felt like they could find another level, and they did. They had the right mindset, playing aggressive and creating a ton of quality chances – outshooting the Bolts 16-6. That set the tone for the overtime period, where the Pens got the win they felt they deserved.
2. COLLECTIVE EFFORT
Matt Cullen and Phil Kessel each scored in the first period, and both of their lines were tremendous in this game. Kessel, Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin used their speed to gain the offensive zone and did a tremendous job of reading and reacting off each other, while Cullen, Eric Fehr and Tom Kuhnhackl were tasked with starting most of their shifts in the D zone but did a great job of getting out of their end and spending extended time down in the other one. Those two lines were the Pens’ best, which meant they stayed together even as head coach Mike Sullivan shortened his bench in the third and tweaked his lines in an effort to spark the rest of the group. Chris Kunitz moved up with Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist, while Kessel and Hagelin double-shifted with Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust (‘Sid’ and ‘Geno’ saw a couple shifts together as well). The moves worked, as Crosby was all over the ice creating chance after chance – and finally, one went in during the overtime period. Despite facing a lot of scrutiny for his playoff goal drought, the Pens captain stepped up with an absolutely huge goal when his team needed it most. That’s leadership right there.
“I think it’s a big boost for Sid. I think it’s a big boost for our team,” Sullivan said. “Obviously this is an important win for us to even the series. But I thought it was a collective effort. The whole group I thought played extremely well, but obviously when Sid gets an OT winner like that, in that fashion, I think it’s a big boost for our team.”
3. MURRAY RESPONDS
I’ve got to give credit to the Pens rookie netminder, who admitted that it was just one of those nights where he didn’t completely have it. I liked how he responded after allowing that late tying tally to Jonathan Drouin in the first period. “That second one was on me. That was just a bad goal,” Murray said. “It was from a distance through our D-man, through a bit of a screen. I just overplayed it and it beat me between my body and my arm. You never want to get beat (there). Just the timing of it, you know? We got off to a quick lead and we weren’t able to hold it.” While Murray said he continued to fight the puck somewhat in the second, he was able to battle through that and shut it down the rest of the way – making a few huge saves in the third when he needed to.