Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins’ 4-3 overtime win over the Washington Capitals. COACH'S DREAM
During every game of this eight-game win streak, it seems like somebody different steps up with a terrific night. On this particular evening, it was Matt Cullen who was the star. Jim Rutherford brought in the 39-year-old on a one-year deal to take faceoffs, kill penalties, play on the fourth line (or top-nine if needed) and be a veteran presence in the room. Well, he’s done all that while also contributing down at the other end. Cullen scored twice tonight to give him 16 on the season, his highest total in 10 years. But what I like the most about his goals is they started in defensive situations. His first started with a faceoff loss in his own end; the second came while killing a penalty. SPECIAL TEAMS
Cullen has also been tremendous shorthanded with Eric Fehr, his linemate at even-strength. That chemistry carries over into penalty killing, as the two of them were absolutely dominant on Washington’s first opportunity of the game, which came just a few minutes in. They helped keep the Caps trapped in their own zone for the majority of it, with Cullen recording two more shots than they did. And on Washington’s second power play of the game, he scored on his third when Ben Lovejoy sprung him and Fehr on a 2-on-1 rush. They’ve got that area of special teams going, but the other definitely struggled. The Pens had 9:25 minutes of power-play time – including a five-minute major and two back-to-back man-advantages in the third – and couldn’t convert. That ended up hurting them. PLAYOFF ATMOSPHERE
Even though both teams have already secured postseason berths, head coach Mike Sullivan said after morning skate he expected this to be a playoff-type game. And man, was he right. What a thriller. The action was incredible from the drop of the puck, with both clubs going back-and-forth creating plenty of chances. The Pens were the stronger team through the first two periods in terms of speed and execution, but the Caps took over in the third. They erased a 3-1 deficit and got the crowd going at Verizon Center. The Pens started to get scrambly defensively at that point, and I’ve got to give Matt Murray so much credit. He was terrific all night, but I thought he stood especially tall late in the game in a tough situation and was rewarded with the win.