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Guentzel has unforgettable debut

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

After finding out Jake Guentzel had earned his first NHL call-up, his brother Gabe called from Germany - where he's playing hockey overseas for the Ausberger Panthers - and made a prediction to their father Mike.

"Gabe asked me if Jake was playing tonight, and I gave him the lineup and he said, 'Dad, he's going to score tonight,'" Mike said. "And I was like 'wow, that's a bold prediction,' but he was right."

Was he ever.

Not only did Guentzel score; he did it on the first shot of his first shift in his first game in the Pens' 5-2 setback to the New York Rangers on Monday at PPG Paints Arena - and then followed that up with another tally for a two-goal debut.

"It's just a dream come true to play here," Guentzel said. "Whenever you get the chance, just try to make the most of it and see what happens. Obviously you have a little bit of nerves at the start. Try and get them out early. With the goal I think it helped a little bit."

On the play, the Pens were transitioning through the neutral zone and Guentzel got open on the left side of the ice to receive a pass from Phil Kessel. He carried the puck around the circle and put a shot on goal that sneaked through Rangers goalie Antti Raanta.

"It's something you dream of," Guentzel said of scoring on his first shot while shaking his head and smiling. "Obviously just trying to throw pucks on net and see what happens."

And within seconds, Mike's phone was ringing.

"In a matter of minutes when the goal went in he was calling me from Germany," Mike said. "That was pretty neat, unforgettable."

On the second, Kessel took a shot that Malkin deflected towards the net. The rebound popped out and Guentzel was able to whack it in.

"I think you've just got to go to the front of the net," Guentzel said. "Anything can happen in there and obviously rebounds happen, so just in the right spot at the right time."

From there, the chances kept coming. It felt like he could have easily had a debut like Auston Matthews' four-goal outing with Toronto. Those offensive instincts Mike Sullivan talked about before the game were certainly on display skating a line with Kessel and Malkin.

"You just got to find those soft areas," Guentzel said. "Those are two good players, so it's pretty easy. Just got to be open for them."

"It's probably tough to play his first game, but he's a smart player," Malkin said. "He understands how we play. He understands the system."

Guentzel may be young, but Sullivan said he's a mature kid who could compliment Kessel and Malkin. It also helped that when Guentzel saw time with those two during the preseason, Sullivan felt he handled it well. And the three of them obviously had instant chemistry tonight.

"It's fun to play with him," Malkin said. "He's young, he's excited to play his first game. Unbelievable first shot, he scores his first goal. I think it's more confidence for him after his game and just try to help him every game."

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