Michelle Crechiolo gives her 3 impressions from the press box of the Penguins’ 5-4 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres.
If the Pens started every first period like they do the second, they’d be dominant all night long. Pittsburgh has been prone to slow starts lately, and tonight was no different even though coach Mike Sullivan told me this morning he wanted that trend to reverse because it was important they got over that hump. I don’t know what is said or done during intermission, but once again, the Pens took the game over in the middle 20 minutes and played exactly the way Sullivan said they needed to at the drop of the puck – north-south and fast. That’s exactly how they scored their first two goals before special teams took over. As a result, they entered down 3-0 and exited up 4-3.
UP AND DOWN
Even though Pittsburgh went 0-for-3 on the power play, I thought they gained a lot of momentum on their last opportunity with about five minutes left in the second. Phil Kessel replaced Beau Bennett after a brief period and really helped that first unit work the zone. And even though Eric Fehr took a penalty shortly after, it ended up working out for the Pens as they combined for two shorthanded goals in a 23-second span. Sullivan has used Kessel and Nick Bonino on the power play together because of their chemistry 5-on-5, and the same goes for the centerman with his other winger shorthanded. They combined for the huge fourth goal while the veteran Matt Cullen and rookie Tom Kuhnhackl connected for the third. But it was an up-and-down night for the penalty kill, as they also surrendered a pair as well.
I think everyone can agree the line of Carl Hagelin, Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino starred for the Pens over the weekend. But tonight, there weren’t necessarily a bunch of dominant performances. It was just guys stepping up at different points throughout the game and making big plays at both even-strength and on special teams. And it wasn’t just the guys on the scoresheet. Matt Murray came up with key saves, especially late in the game when he stoned Jack Eichel on a breakaway in overtime and again in the shootout. Patric Hornqvist was a beast battling on the forecheck and at the net-front. Beau Bennett had a couple of scoring chances and was going hard to the paint. And Kris Letang – man. He played over half the game, logging a regular-season career-high 35:14 minutes while firing 8 shots on goal. That man is a machine.