With Kris Letang out of the lineup for Thursday’s Game 4 of Pittsburgh’s second-round matchup with Washington after being suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson, the Pens defensemen knew that they would have to step up.
And while it certainly took a group effort to make up for his absence, there is no denying that Trevor Daley did an excellent job of taking on most of the workload.
“First and foremost, ‘Dales’ played unbelievable,” Ian Cole said. “I saw that he had 20 minutes in two periods. So he was unbelievable.”
Daley finished with a total of 28:41 minutes, playing in every situation – including a team-high 2:12 shorthanded minutes – as Pittsburgh defeated Washington 3-2 in overtime.
“I feel great,” Daley said. “I feel awesome. It was a little different playing a lot, but I tried to pace myself out there. I knew that I could play a lot of minutes, so I just tried to manage them pretty well.”
And the 32-year-old veteran made the most of them, scoring a huge goal in the first period that evened the score at 1-1 and finishing with a plus-3.
On the sequence, Patric Hornqvist carried the puck into the offensive zone, and Daley read that a play was developing so he jumped into the rush. Hornqvist – the eventual overtime hero – dropped Daley the puck, who fired a shot that found its way through traffic and into the back of the net.
“I think (Derrick) Pouliot had a great breakout,” Daley said. “We broke out of the zone really well, really clean. I just followed up, got a pass in the slot and closed my eyes and shot.”
Ever since the Pens acquired Daley from Chicago in exchange for Rob Scuderi on Dec. 14, he has consistently been one of the team’s top defensemen.
In his 53 regular-season games with the Pens, Daley tallied 22 points (6G-16A) and finished the year with a plus-8.
“It’s funny how this game works,” Daley said. “You stick with it and good things happen. I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I’m in a good place here. I’m enjoying it with a great group of guys. We just play. That’s been our motto since I got here, since (Mike Sullivan) got here – just play.”
Prior to becoming a Penguin, Daley was a part of five postseasons with Dallas. Daley played in 35 total playoff games as a Star and earned seven points. There must be something about Pittsburgh that is working for Daley, because he already has five points (1G-4A) – all of them coming at home – in just nine playoff games as a Penguin.
“It’s great,” Daley said about the Pens’ current run. “As you get older you don’t take things for granted as much. These opportunities don’t come around so often, so when it does come around you want to try to take advantage of it.”