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The floodgates open for Guentzel

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

During the third period of Pittsburgh's game against Buffalo on Monday, Jake Guentzel slammed his stick against the glass in frustration after failing to convert a scoring chance.

He had already scored a goal in the game, but could have had a couple more. And in a game that the Pens eventually lost 5-4 in overtime, those missed opportunities were especially tough to take.

"You might get a little frustrated, especially when you're not winning," Guentzel told me ahead of their game against Dallas on Wednesday.

"It's a little harder because you know those goals are a big difference. I think that's the biggest thing, I just had some bad luck last game and after you realize it, you've just got to have fun and stick to it and the chances are coming, so hopefully the bounces start coming."

They've done just that for Guentzel, as he scored a goal and added an assist in his team's 5-1 win over the Stars. Then, after being held off the scoresheet in Pittsburgh's 2-1 overtime loss to Boston, Guentzel netted the first regular season hat trick of his career - and third overall including playoffs - in their 4-2 win over Columbus on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena.

"It's nice to get a win in front of your fans and I was on the good end of some plays," Guentzel said. "Obviously feels nice. Pucks just kind of keep finding me. They're just going in right now, so you've just got to try and ride it as long as you can."

It feels especially nice considering Guentzel recently went through a seven-game goal drought, but now has five goals in his last four games and has taken over the team lead with 11 total tallies.

"I think Jake plays the same game," Pens head coach Mike Sullivan said. "Sometimes the puck goes in the net for you, sometimes it doesn't. When we track the scoring chances and scoring chances involvement, every night he's on it in some capacity. You look at their line last night in Boston, that line was dominant in Boston last night. Jake had a couple of Grade A scoring chances. They didn't go in the net for him. But tonight they did."

It's probably not a coincidence that Guentzel's scoring surge has come since being reunited on a line with Sidney Crosby. They were separated for a while as Guentzel spent some time with Riley Sheahan and Phil Kessel and then Crosby got hurt, but the coaching staff put them back together upon the captain's return.

That proved to be the right move, as Guentzel and Crosby have rediscovered their chemistry. That was on display today as Crosby made some ridiculous plays to set up Guentzel.

"He just has a high intellect and reads plays well," Sullivan said of Guentzel. "Obviously, when he scores like he did tonight he helps us win. I think he definitely is a guy we're going to rely on moving forward. Obviously, he had a strong game for us tonight."

On the first goal, Crosby made a no-look, backhand pass right onto Guentzel's tape and he one timed it from between the hashmarks. On the second goal, Crosby powered around Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara - sending him flying to the ice - and made another perfect feed to Guentzel for the finish.

"You know he's a really good player on his backhand, so you've got to be ready at all times," Guentzel said. "He made some really good plays tonight and I was pretty lucky to be on the end of them."

Guentzel's third goal was more dirty, as he found some loose change in front and cashed in. Guentzel had also said to me the other day that he felt he was putting himself in the right areas, and hoped that he would eventually get rewarded for that.

"You just got to try to get to the front of the net," he said. "It's hard to score goals and I was fortunate to be on that end tonight."

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