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Impressions from the Bench/Press Box: Pens 3, Wild 2 OT

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins assistant coach Gary Agnew shares his three observations from the bench on tonight’s 3-2 overtime win against Minnesota.

1. I thought our defensive coverage assignments were really good. When they had the puck coming into the zone the guys were sorting out the rush really well. That’s the forwards and the defensemen. Coming into our zone we had a couple of breakdowns, but good recoveries by our guys and stretched them out.

2. In the offensive zone we had some sustained pressure. We had some possession time. Our D were moving across the blue line nicely, giving the forwards some options. Guys were getting the puck to the net. I thought it was really good down there.

3. Our compete level. We lost (Robert Bortuzzo) in the third. We were playing with five guys. The forwards did a heck of a job winning board battles, puck races. You win and lose games a lot of times in those one-on-one battles. I thought we were really good. 

Michelle Crechiolo shares her three impressions from the media level.

1. While I liked what I saw from Beau Bennett in his first preseason game, I was even more impressed with him tonight. He didn’t shoot the puck as much as he did on Monday, but he didn’t need to with the absolutely gorgeous feeds he was giving to his teammates. Whenever Bennett had the puck on his stick – especially coming out of his own end or in the neutral zone – he would wait just long enough for an outlet to present itself, then spring whatever guy it was coming with speed. Twice, that guy happened to be Bennett's linemate Brandon Sutter. He scored once and rang one off the red painted metal other time.

“With the new coaching staff in here we’re trying to take a second or two more (with the puck) instead of just getting rid of it, getting it in deep,” Bennett said. “A couple times tonight you have that patience and something opens up like the one where Sutter hit the post. I think that’s very suited to my game and my line’s game.”

2. Oskar Sundqvist gave Pens fans a taste of what’s to come with his third-period goal that evened the score at 2-2. As Simon Despres drove down to the goal line and put a shot on net, the power forward was in perfect position right in the crease - and he kept whacking at the puck in Ilya Bryzgalov’s skates until it went in. I love Sundqvist’s size at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, and he’s got a scoring touch as well. After the score was knotted up, forward Blake Comeau drew two penalties. He was dragged down from behind on both plays, meaning he did the work to first get the puck and then kept his feet moving to get the calls. He looks like he’ll be a great addition to the bottom-six with the way he uses his size and skating to be physical and make plays.

“It’s my first in this level,” Sundqvist said of his goal. “It’s good. I was just going to the net and the D-man just shot on the goalie and I think I had a little bit of luck with the bounce there, then it went in. Every goal counts so it’s just great.”

3. Jeff Zatkoff wasn’t tested too much in this game, as he only saw 18 shots against. But the Wild had a lot of zone time, and he had to come up with big saves at crucial points in the game. Zatkoff’s biggest came in the third period with the score tied 2-2 and Minnesota on a power play. Defenseman Matt Dumba sneaked down to the backdoor and had a wide open net, but Zatkoff somehow slid over and made an incredible pad save before making another with his blocker. And while he’s in a potentially stressful situation competing with Thomas Greiss for the backup position, Zatkoff is making sure it motivates him instead of hindering him during these exhibition games.

“I think competition pushes everyone,” Zatkoff said. “It brings out the best in everyone. Thomas and I both want to make this team. We both want to be in the NHL and I want him to do well, but when I’m in there, I want to play well too. So that’s really all I can control, is how well I play when I’m in there. So I’m just focused on that.”

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