Bryan Rust missed the first 11 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. It's a shame. Otherwise, he might have been giving Boston's David Pastrnak a run for the NHL scoring title.
Okay, that may be a stretch. But since Rust has returned all he's done in post points in all six games he's played and totaled five goals and seven points.
Rust scored a crucial game-tying goal late in the third period that allowed the Pens to earn a 3-2 shootout victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Video: CHI@PIT: Rust pots equalizer from tough angle
Head coach Mike Sullivan eloquently described Rust as "a dog on a bone with the puck." Can't argue against that, particularly when you see his tenacity on the forecheck.
But what's more impressive has been Rust's goals, particularly the timeliness of his goals.
Dallas: scored the game-clinching goal late in the third period to secure a victory.
NY Islanders: scored a goal to help charge a comeback in the third period. Added a second goal on the night, which happened to be the overtime winner.
Chicago: scored a late third period goal that tied the game at 2-2 after Pittsburgh trailed 2-0.
Without Rust's tying goal Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins wouldn't have been able to pull off their 3-2 shootout victory. The Penguins are now 4-1-1 with Rust in the lineup.
"I'm trying to move my feet, get to open spaces and make plays when they're there," Rust said. "I've been fortunate with some really good plays by my linemates.
"Things feel good, but I know better than anyone else that things can turn just as quickly for the bad or for the good. I just have to keep plugging away."
Seconds before Rust tied the game late in the third period, he nearly, well, tied the game. Rust tried to pull the puck around the outstretched pad of goaltender Corey Crawford and stuff it in at the post. Rust was denied.
So he skated from behind the net and into the far circle. Rookie defenseman John Marino had the puck and Rust tried calling for the pass. And it came right to him.
"I was trying to scream pretty loud. It was loud in there," Rust said. "I'm not sure if he heard me or put his head up and made a really good play. Either way, it was an unbelievable pass."
And as the puck came to him, Rust had a simple plan.
"Handle the puck. Get your head up. Just put it in the net. Don't overthink it," he said. "It was such a nice pass and I was so wide open that you just want to make sure you hit the net."
Rust did hit the net. The back of the net, snapping in a shot beyond the reach of Crawford.
It continues his torrid run since suffering an upper-body injury in the final preseason game after blocking a shot.
"Unfortunate injury with five minutes left in the last preseason game," Rust said. "I kept working hard off the ice."
But that injury hasn't slowed him down. In fact, he's stepped right back into the lineup as if he didn't miss a day.
"The biggest thing for me that Rust has shown since Day 1 of camp is just a sense of urgency and a certain hunger to his game," Sullivan said. "When he plays that way he's at his best. He's done that consistently day in and day out."