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Inside Scoop: Pens-Isles

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' morning skate prior to hosting the New York Islanders…

* On Tuesday night against Colorado, the Pens let the 3-0 lead they built in the first period turn into a 3-3 tie during the second period. The Avs had all the momentum, the Pens couldn't stop the bleeding and were, as Bryan Rust said, in danger of falling into a shell and losing the game.

But in the third period, Patric Hornqvist stepped up and tallied a hat trick in 2:47 - the fastest hat trick in team history - to lead the Pens to a 6-3 win. After the game, Hornqvist stood at his locker stall talking to the media and said he felt like that was the turning point of their season.

"That was a great third period and just keep building every single day from this day on and we'll be fine," he said.

To be fair, there have been other moments during the course of the season that felt like turning points, only for the Pens to take two steps back. But the Pens have a new term to describe those moments.

"We've got to use those as kind of teaching points," Rust said. "Just learn that each game is a new story and you got to work hard and got to do the same things because those things aren't going to happen easy."

Overall, when Mike Sullivan looks at his team's body of work over the last five to 10 games, he feels that they're playing a much better brand of hockey - and that's why Hornqvist might be right this time around.

"We're playing better defensively. I think we're harder to play against. There's so many areas of our game where we've improved," Sullivan said. "Having said that, we've had our own hiccups during the course of that process. We've had some setbacks that have cost us in the win column. We're trying to control what we can to be at our best. We're trying to make sure that we don't become a team that beats itself. That we force teams to have to be at their best to beat us. I think that's the very first step of becoming the team that we're capable of becoming."

* With Dominik Simon leaving Tuesday's game with a lower-body injury, Rust was moved up into his spot alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel and practiced there again on Wednesday.

Rust is still stuck on one goal for the season despite having a ton of scoring chances that just won't fall. For example, he had the puck on his stick with an empty net towards the end of last game and ended up getting tripped on the play. Rust is hoping that getting another look on the top line could help get him over the hump.

"It's obviously been a bit frustrating," he said. "Kind of fighting it a little bit when it comes to offensively, but just keep working hard and hopefully I'll snap out of it."

Riley Sheahan recently snapped out of a goal drought, and Rust was asked if he got any advice from his good buddy about how to deal with his current situation. And just as good friends do, Rust made sure to get in a good chirp.

"If there's any guy who knows about going long stretches without goals it's him," Rust said with a laugh. "Him and I have talked about that a little bit. He's definitely a good guy to turn to."

* This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season, with the Islanders sweeping the home-and-home series on Oct. 30 (6-3) and Nov. 1 (3-2 OT). They've been terrific within the Metro Division as they have a 10-2 record so far on the season.

The Pens pointed to the Isles' overall structure as the biggest change from last year, with Barry Trotz taking over as head coach, and the biggest challenge when it comes to the matchup.

"They play a really good defensive game and they wait for mistakes to counter-attack," Kris Letang said. "Obviously, they have a lot of firepower up front to make you pay for those mistakes. I think overall they play a really good defensive game."

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