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Snap Shots: Pens 5, Preds 2

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 5-2 victory against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

* Marcus Pettersson laid into a shot from the blue line toward the Nashville goal. Standing right in front of goaltender Pekka Rinne was forward Alex Galchenyuk atop the crease. Galchenyuk tipped the shot, found his own rebound and slipped the puck through the legs of Rinne for a goal. 

Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese charged toward the net for a de-facto two-on-one. Aston-Reese threw a shot on goal. Blueger outmuscled Dante Fabbro for the loose puck and slammed it in the goal behind Rinne.

Jake Guentzel carried the puck through the high slot as Bryan Rust set up shop at the top of the crease. Guentzel waited for goalie Juuse Saros, who replaced Rinnie late in the first period, to drop to his knees. Then Guentzel threw the puck at Rust, banking it off of his stick and into the goal. 

Juuso Riikola collected the puck and drove toward the net. His initial shot was stopped. He collected his own rebound and flipped it over the prone Saros. The puck hit the post and crossbar before falling in the blue paint. Riikola, once again, retrieved his own rebound and stuffed it into the net. 

There was one common denominator on those four Penguins' goals in their victory against Nashville in the opening salvo of a home-and-home series: net drive.

"If you want to score goals, going to the net is a good way to do it," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "When you get those blue paint goals, it's a boost for your team. It's a great way to manufacture offense."

On all four occasions the Penguins had players attacking the blue paint.

"So many goals around the league are scored around the net off of rebounds, deflections or just dirty goals," Rust said. "We did a really good job of that top to bottom."

The Penguins were rewarded for their guts with goals. Those gritty, dirty goals are exactly what Pittsburgh needs right now. The team is still missing four players due to injury, and with their skill level depleted the Penguins have shifted their mentality from the highlight goals to scoring the ugly goals. 

"Everybody wants to score highlight goals, but goals like this win the game," Galchenyuk said. "With each year it's harder and harder to get goals. You need to put in garbage ones sometimes."

Pittsburgh's other goal, which was also the first goal of the game, came from Dominik Simon. Again, nothing special about the play. He carried down the near side and sent a low-percentage shot on net. But it slipped through the five-hole of Rinne. Which goes to show, keep things simple and there are no bad shots. 

* The Penguins have turned chasing Rinne from the net a tradition. They did it to him during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and again on Friday night. Rinne was pulled in favor of Saros after allowing three goals on six shots.

* It isn't just playing a greasier game that the Penguins need right now. It's also secondary scoring. When you look at the goal scorers and see these names - Simon, Galchenyuk, Blueger, Riikola - then you've got yourself some secondary scoring. 

* Speaking of spreading out the production, 14 different Penguins registered a point in the game. And only one had more than one point, Riikola with a goal and assist.

* It's great seeing Riikola get on the scoresheet. He's played sporadically all season and has had to remain patient. The injuries on the blue line have created an opportunity, and he's making the most of it. He had two points (1G-1A) and a plus-4. 

* Things got a little chippy late in the game. Mattias Ekholm checked Evgeni Malkin from behind. Malkin got up and retaliated. The two scrapped with Ekholm taking Malkin to the ice and landing a few blows while both men were down.

There's still some held over bad blood from the Cup Final. It should only make Saturday's grudge match between the two teams in Pittsburgh more heated.

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