Derrick Pouliot had nothing but praise for Ian Cole after they were paired together in a 4-3 win at Buffalo on Feb. 21. That was Cole’s was his first appearance since Jan. 21 vs. Philadelphia after sitting out 11 straight as a healthy scratch. Three games later, their chemistry is helping to win games.
Neither defender put the puck in the net themselves, but both picked up two assists in the Pens’ 4-1 win over Winnipeg on Saturday at CONSOL Energy Center
It was the third time Cole and Pouliot have played a decent portion of minutes together. Tonight was by far their best performance as a pair, helping put away three goals for Pittsburgh and earning the No. 3 and 2 Stars of the night, respectively.
“What really jumped out to me was how they made really good decisions as far as their first pass and getting the puck out of our zone,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “Winnipeg is a team that likes the forecheck…they put a lot of pressure on teams and I thought they (Cole and Pouliot) did well working the puck out.
After Kris Letang opened the score 1-0 early in the second period, the two defensemen went to work. Just 23 seconds later, after some nice D-to-D passing, they assisted on Carl Hagelin’s redirect that put the Pittsburgh up 2-0 for a lead they would not relinquish.
“Trying to get pucks towards the net as quick as possible is really effective for us,” Cole said. “Especially when you have guys with stick skills to put them in.”
Neither player was done, though. Pouliot set up a similar situation in the third after blasting a shot from inside the blue line that Scott Wilson also redirected into the net for the 22-year-old defenseman’s first career multi-point game.
“They gave us some room at the point,” Pouliot said. “So we had some quick D-to-D passes and were able to put shots on net that the forwards were able to tip in.”
“I tried to put it around a certain height so he can maybe tough it or if it falls to the net maybe there is a rebound. Scott told me flip a wrister towards the net because he’s going to be there, so I did it, and he tipped it.”
Cole also earned his second assist after Hagelin put away the fourth and final goal of the game. While it was a personally satisfying night for the 27-year-old defenseman, especially after his recent stretch of having to watch from the press box, the two points in the standings are what matters to him.
“You start to play well and stuff starts to happen for you,” Cole said. “Obviously it’s nice to get points, but we’re more concerned about playing well and playing hard.”