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3 Impressions: Pens 6, Bolts 3

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins Radio Network color analyst Phil Bourque gives his three impressions from the booth of the Penguins’ 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at CONSOL Energy Center.

1. Number one is the Penguins getting to loose pucks. Their cycle down low, on their toes, supporting the puck, attacking the net in the offensive zone, it’s good as I’ve seen it all year.

2. Number two, I’d say the injection of energy, and also showing up on the score sheet. Christian Ehrhoff and Steve Downie getting back into the lineup. I thought they were difference makers not only with the plays that they made and the energy they brought, but also getting three goals from those two players.

3. My number one would be the play of the Penguins’ two stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Again, not only do they show up on the score sheet, but they led by example. They led by work ethic. Second and third efforts in all three zones. I thought that the Penguins’ two players were just that. The two best players on the ice.

Michelle Crechiolo gives her three takeaways from the media level.

It was an interesting day here at CONSOL Energy Center, to say the least. While the game itself included referee Mike Leggo leaving the game due to illness after vomiting on the ice, the goal horn going off before the puck went in the back of the net and the blade of Nick Spaling’s stick getting stuck in a guy’s visor, the biggest events happened before the game – when Evgeni Malkin and Craig Adams got in a fight at morning skate; and the Pens traded Rob Klinkhammer and a first-round pick to Edmonton for David Perron. Despite everything that was going on, the Pens stayed focused and stormed out to an incredible start over the Lightning – building themselves a 3-0 lead within the first 13:39 minutes. And while Tampa Bay eventually started fighting back, the Pens responded every time and ended the night with an emphatic 6-3 win over the top team in the Eastern Conference. That’s huge.

“I think we needed a game like this,” Sidney Crosby said. “When we're moving our feet and making smart plays, the offense will take care of itself. We give ourselves a lot better chance if we're responsible in all places on the ice. We did a good job of that and got rewarded.”

Evgeni Malkin learned that he would be playing with unfamiliar linemates in Andrew Ebbett and Bryan Rust about an hour and a half before puck drop. “With a new line, I’m a little nervous before the game,” Malkin admitted. Turns out he didn’t need to be, as that line ended up combining for a couple of goals. Malkin liked the energy those two played with, calling them "hungry" and saying, “I think we did a great job on the forecheck. Both wingers used a lot of speed and got to the puck. The whole game I think we played good.” Meanwhile, head coach Mike Johnston decided to slot in Steve Downie on Sidney Crosby’s right wing, and those two combined for six points. I love the way Johnston doesn't hesitate to mix and match and adjust his combinations whenever he sees fit. His moves worked out tonight.

"Recognizing sort of where we’re heading with the (David Perron) trade and knowing that ideally, we’d like to have those three centers,” Johnston said. “I still like the Sutter line, so I wasn’t willing to break that up. So we tried to work some wingers around 'Sid' and 'Geno.' Sid had played with Downs and Spaling before, so there was some familiarity there. But I actually thought that Geno and Ebbett had a really good game tonight, and with 'Ruster' they were one of our better lines early in the game. So we had some good balance.”

The power play was much improved tonight, scoring just 20 seconds into their first opportunity and eight seconds after their second one. When Phil Bourque asked Johnston about the power play before the Carolina game, the head coach said “the key thing for all power plays is that you need to generate shots from the point, and you need a very good net-front. Those are the two key ingredients.” The Penguins had both of those tonight, and it was a recipe for success. After Patric Hornqvist went down, Johnston opted to go with a three-forward, two-defenseman look for the first couple of games. Tonight, he decided to go with four forwards, one defenseman – putting Downie out with Chris Kunitz to give them more of a presence in the slot and at the crease. It worked. Those two were right there as Kris Letang fired a shot to the net, and Kunitz was able to recover it and jam it past Ben Bishop for the score.

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