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Kuhnhackl Does Heavy Lifting on Game-Winner

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Usually when Tom Kuhnhackl is entering the offensive zone, he tends to dump the puck in and chase after it. At least, that's what Eric Fehr expected him to do as he carried up the ice in the third period. However, that time, Kuhnhackl did something else.

"Usually that's what I do, chip pucks in and try to go get it," Kuhnhackl said with a laugh. "This time, I tried to make a play and I'm glad it worked out."

The young winger made a terrific play to set up the game-winner in the Pens' 3-2 comeback win over Florida on Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena.

It all started in the defensive zone, with Matt Cullen winning a faceoff and Kuhnhackl cutting across the circle to dig the puck out. He then turned on the jets to go up the ice, banking the puck off the boards, squeezing between them and defenseman Jason Demers and picking it back up once he got a step on the Panthers blueliner.

"'Cully' just kind of tied him up and the puck squeezed out. I knew their D was going to be a little flat-footed, so I just tried to chip it by him," Kuhnhackl said.

That's the sequence that stands out the most to head coach Mike Sullivan.

"He makes a real nice subtle play coming through that neutral zone," Sullivan pointed out. "Sometimes you're better off not having the puck if a defenseman has a good gap on you. You're better off not having it because you can put it to an area, lay it behind him and now he can't touch you."

Once Kuhnhackl gained the zone, he drew both defensemen over to him - which is when Fehr realized he needed to get to the net.

"That was an unbelievable play," Fehr said. "Once he drew the two defenders towards him, I knew he was going to look to put it towards the net. I just readied myself and he made an unbelievable pass."

Kuhnhackl feathered it through the blueliners with a beautiful saucer pass right on a platter for Fehr, who just had to tap it in.

"I kind of took a look right away and I saw him there," Kuhnhackl said of Fehr. "Obviously it was a tough play through two guys, but glad I found him. I'm just glad I put it in."

Kuhnhackl, Cullen and Fehr were a solid line for the Pens throughout their Stanley Cup championship run. They hadn't played together yet this season due to injuries, but it looks like they're starting to pick up right where they left off.

"It's a big goal for us," Sullivan said. "That line, I think, has the ability to play an important role for our team. They're a very good checking line, they're very responsible, they can win faceoffs, they're good along the wall, they're hard to play against, and when they can chip in offensively like that, it makes us that much better."

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