Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box of the Pens’ 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers. 1. Phil Throttle
Without Evgeni Malkin I said the player that needed to step up the most was forward Phil Kessel (Sidney Crosby was a given). Kessel has done that and then some. The dominance of that second line is no coincidence. We can talk about the production from Kessel (another goal and assist against the Rangers after putting up a career-high five points against Detroit a day earlier). But what’s more impressive has been Kessel’s motor. When he’s exerting full effort and blazing the skates, no one can match him. And when he is in relentless pursuit of the puck on both the backcheck and forecheck, he is a dominant two-way threat. This is the Phil Kessel the Pens expected when they acquired him last summer. And he is hitting his stride at just the right time with playoffs around the corner. 2. Tactical Timeout
For all the Xs and Os that the coaching staff drew up for the Pens, their biggest tactical success came from signaling for a timeout. The Pens opened the extra session on the power play and defenseman Kris Letang ended up skating on a 3:30-minute shift to open overtime. That was clearly not by design as he was trapped on the ice. However, with under one minute to play the coaching staff used its only timeout to rest their best players and allow them one final minute worth of play to try and net the game-winner. The ploy paid off as it was Letang setting up Sidney Crosby in front for the overtime game-winning goal. 3. Evenly Matched
The Pens have won the season series against New York with a 3-1 mark. After the Rangers eliminated the Pens the past two years in the postseason, New York was inside the head of the Pittsburgh players. The series was titled in the Rangers’ favor. However, the tides have reversed course. Now the Pens not only know they can play with the Rangers, they believe they can beat them. As head coach Mike Sullivan says, games are often won or lost before the teams even take the ice. It’s as much a psychological battle as it is a physical battle. If these two teams meet again in the playoffs, it will be anybody’s series. But one thing is for sure, the Pens have the confidence to reverse the result of the past two seasons.