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Hornqvist's warrior-like effort sparks Pens

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

After Pittsburgh's 3-2 win over Washington in Game 4 of their Second Round series on Wednesday night, head coach Mike Sullivan went to the podium in the media workroom to take questions from reporters.

The last one began, "What did you think of (Patric) Hornqvist tonight…"

And at that point, the reporter stopped midsentence to chuckle at the smile that had come across Sullivan's face.

That's the kind of reaction a player like Hornqvist always elicits from his coach and teammates, who can't say enough about his energy, his passion and his positive attitude.

"He loves to compete," Sullivan said. "He loves to win. He's got an insatiable appetite to win. And we love his fire. I think it's contagious on the bench. He's a passionate guy. He wears his emotions right on his chest. And I really think it helps our team. It boosts our energy. He's a real positive guy amongst his teammates."

And Hornqvist did absolutely everything within his power to help his team win, with his first contribution coming on the scoreboard. He put the Pens up 1-0 just 4:39 into the game after Olli Maatta sprung him on a breakaway.

Hornqvist skated in and went backhand-forehand before roofing the puck into the top corner despite not having a lot of room to shoot. Though Hornqvist said afterward that the game was more about will than skill for the Pens, his goal begged to differ.

And afterward, that time it was Hornqvist who couldn't stop smiling on the bench as the Pens showed him on the videoboard to the crowd's delight.

"Great pass from Olli and I saw (Braden) Holtby was pretty deep in his net, so I just tried to move it quick and get it up in a hurry and it worked well," Hornqvist explained.

A few minutes after that, Hornqvist blocked a shot at the other end and labored to get off the ice. Despite appearing to be in some pain, Hornqvist stayed on the bench (where Marc-Andre Fleury skated up during a TV timeout to give him a tap on the pads and say thank you) and remained in the game.

That came after Hornqvist blocked a shot late in the first period of Game 2 that sent him to the locker room, where he did not return. But like the warrior he is, Hornqvist was ready to go for the next game.

"We've got some guys that are playing through some bumps and bruises, just like every other team that's still playing," Sullivan said. "Horny is a guy that plays through a lot. … I just think it's his attitude, when he comes to the rink every day, that allows him to be the player that he is and that's his willingness to play through any of the bumps and bruises he may have and he doesn't complain. He embraces it. He gets excited about it."

Finally, one last play that stood out from Hornqvist was on a power play in the second period, their third of the game. The Caps had just erased a 2-0 deficit by scoring twice in a 1:12 span and had all the momentum on their side.

Evgeni Malkin - who had been dominating on draws that game - got kicked out of the faceoff circle by the referee. After some discussion, Hornqvist skated in to replace him. He won the faceoff against Nicklas Backstrom and started the sequence that led to the game-winner off the stick of Justin Schultz.

"It was a long time ago," Hornqvist said of the last time he'd taken a faceoff. "I used to take a lot of draws back in the day and it was nice to see it went back there and we scored the game winner off that."

Hornqvist had gotten moved up on a line with Sidney Crosby for Game 1, and said before that game he liked having pressure on him to perform. He said you want to play your best game when the stakes are higher, and he did that, collecting two assists in that win.

Without Crosby for Game 4, the stakes climbed even further. And Hornqvist continued to elevate his game along with them.

"Sid is a big loss for us, but we wanted to get that win for him and we all played really, really hard," Hornqvist said. "We didn't play our best game, but we found a way to win and that's all that matters." 

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