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3 Impressions: Pens 3, Wild 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box of the Pens’ 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wild.

1. Vuelve Contento
The Pens’ lineup got a huge boost in their contest against the Wild with the return of captain Sidney Crosby and top-defenseman Kris Letang. Both had an immediate impact on the scoresheet, picking up two points each. Crosby opened the scoring in the game with a snap shot from above the near circle and set up Patric Hornqvist for an easy tap in on the man-advantage. Neither player looked slowed or effected by their injuries. Crosby had a few shifts where he was flashing some blazing wheels. Letang worked through some rust, but improved as the game continued. Crosby (lower-body) missed the team’s last game, while Letang (upper-body) was out for the previous 6. (Letang left the game briefly in the third period after being hit in the head by Jarret Stoll. But he returned to finish the contest).

2. Forecheck
The Pens had arguably their best game on the forecheck. They were beasts in the offensive zone in terms of possession. The Pens weren’t throwing out big, booming hits. But they were winning puck battles and had Minnesota trapped for long stretches. Though they didn’t generate a ton of scoring chances off of their zone time, they did grind down the Wild. As a result of the Pens’ relentless forecheck, the Wild couldn’t break out of their zone, couldn’t muster any speed through the neutral zone and couldn’t create any offense – just 12 shots through two periods. The Pens played the role of the methodical boxer that smartly wore down his opponent before delivering the knockout blow.

3. Response
Head coach Mike Sullivan has preached to his team about becoming a more resilient group. They showed some of the resiliency that the coach had hoped for against the Wild. Despite a dominant effort and lopsided play, the Pens had only a 1-0 lead. But instead of getting frustrated with their missed opportunities and close calls, the Pens kept playing. And kept dominating. Just 45 seconds after the Pens extended their lead to 2-0, the Wild countered to make it 2-1 with just 1:05 left in the second period. Instead of letting Minnesota carry the momentum out of the period, the Pens went back to work, drew a penalty and then connected for a power-play goal that sucked the life out of the Wild and the Xcel Energy Center.

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