Prior to the Penguins’ Tuesday night contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning at CONSOL Energy Center, rookies Bryan Rust and Brian Dumoulin were discussing which of the two would be the first to record their first-career NHL goal.
“We were joking around before the game,” Rust said. “(Dumoulin said) ‘Hey Rusty, you want to get your first one?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you too?’”
And as fate would have it, both players did just that.
Rust and Dumoulin both scored their milestone first NHL goal against Tampa Bay in Pittsburgh’s 4-2 win.
“It’s obviously something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time now,” Rust said.
Rust, who was playing in just his second NHL game after being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League due to a rash of injuries plaguing Pittsburgh, scored with a beautiful shot from the slot.
Center Andrew Ebbett, intercepting a Lightning pass behind the net, fed him the puck and Rust, 22, snapped a quick shot into the top corner of the goal to break a 1-1 tie and give the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the second period.
“I was kind of just happy to get into a game or two and I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Rust, the Penguins’ third-round pick (80th overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft. “Ebbett found me in the slot and I was able to rifle one home. I’ve played hockey long enough where I know if I get a pass in the slot, I’ve got to get my head up and pick a spot.”
Rust, who stared the game on the fourth line with Ebbett and Craig Adams, was rewarded for his play when the coaching staff gave him several shifts on the team’s top line with star Evgeni Malkin and Blake Comeau.
Dumoulin, 23, notched his first career tally in the third period, though it wasn’t quite as pretty as Rust’s. Dumoulin received a pass at the near point and sent the puck toward the net. It deflected off of Tampa’s Victor Hedman and through the legs of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. The goal proved to be the eventual game-winner.
“It feels good,” said Dumoulin, who was appearing in just his 10th career NHL game. “It seems like every game you play, you just want it to happen, get it out the way.”
Rust and Dumoulin are the latest Penguins players to step up while the team battles through injuries. Pittsburgh has suffered 83-man games lost to injury this year, including missing key talents like Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Patric Hornqvist, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta.
Despite all the injuries, the Penguins have built a 20-6-4 record and sit at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The catalyst to their success has been other players filling the void of the team’s injured personnel.
The injuries have provided Rust and Dumoulin the opportunity to show management and the coaches that they belong in the NHL. But according to head coach Mike Johnston, they need to have the proper focus.
“I think the main thing that they can do is not be concerned about trying to earn a job,” Johnston said. “It’s just to try and play in every game, try to figure out how they can get more minutes and within those minutes how they can manage them well.”
The duo managed their minutes well enough against the Bolts to convert their first-ever tallies. And as the saying goes, “It’s not how, it’s how many.”
“Obviously, it doesn’t matter how it goes in. It could have been pretty like Rust’s or kind of greasy like mine,” Dumoulin said.
“But I’ll take it.”