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Hornqvist Fearless While Thriving in Tough Areas

by Mark Madden @MarkMaddenX / 105.9 the X

Patric Hornqvist has a knack for bank shots.

You might remember such a finish in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Nashville. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne served as the backboard then. That goal gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead with 95 seconds left and ultimately propelled Pittsburgh to a second straight Stanley Cup.

Hornqvist again worked his magic from below the goal line vs. visiting Buffalo Nov. 14. This time he ricocheted the puck off Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly to cut the Penguins' deficit to 2-1 with 19 seconds left in the first period.

Hornqvist finished the game with a goal and two assists. That hiked his stats to six goals and five assists in 17 games and helped the Pens win, 5-4 in OT.

Hornqvist wasn't exactly basking in the glory of his bank shot against Buffalo, however.

"That was 100 per cent luck, but I'll take it," Hornqvist said.

Luck is the residue of where hard work meets design, and the Swedish right winger tries doggedly to execute that formula on a consistent basis.

The Penguins are built on skill and speed, and Hornqvist is hardly bereft of those qualities. But the 6-foot, 188-pounder provides the team with a collisional element that helps greatly along the wall and near the blue paint. Hornqvist is zero fun to play against. Just ask opposing players.

Hornqvist skated on a line with Riley Sheahan and Conor Sheary against Buffalo, and Coach Mike Sullivan gave that trio its due afterward.

"They were our best line," Sullivan said. "Every time they were on the ice, they were on the puck. They were relentless on the forecheck. They forced a lot of turnovers. They got a lot of pucks to the net. They played on the inside.

"They did a lot of the things we're trying to establish consistently with our whole team."

Hornqvist was also happy with his line's showing. Hornqvist set up Sheary's goal in the second period to get the Pens to within 3-2. A long pass by Olli Maatta got Hornqvist loose behind Buffalo's defense to start that sequence.

"We played really hard, and we got some chances," Hornqvist said. "The puck was bouncing our way, too. My goal was just luck, and then I fed it over to [Sheary]. If you work hard, you get those breaks, and I think we worked hard."

The win left the Penguins at 10-7-3. Not an ideal start, but Hornqvist remains hopeful.

"I'll take the two points," Hornqvist said. "We didn't play our best. But we put five pucks behind the goaltender, and we'll take that. But we still need to clean up some things if we want to be where we want to go.

"We haven't played our best game, but we still have a decent record. That's what a good team does. But we still need to be way better. We can't control those [20] games behind us, but we can control the next 60-plus games."

The Penguins twice bounced back from a two-goal deficit to defeat Buffalo, forging a 3-3 tie on Sidney Crosby's second-period power-play goal.

The tally, Crosby's first in 12 games, came when he netted a rebound after Hornqvist got a piece of Phil Kessel's shot. The Pens were 1-for-5 on the PP.

"We moved the puck around really well," Hornqvist said. "Phil did a good job to hold onto the puck and find a lane to shoot it. Both me and Sid were on the doorstep and Sid found the puck.

"We might have to shoot a little more [on the power play], but we still created a lot of chances. I liked our power play tonight."

The Penguins didn't hold a lead against Buffalo until Sheary scored in OT. Hornqvist was happy with the comeback, nothing that the Penguins battled back from a two-goal deficit to get a point at Nashville in the previous game, losing 5-4 via shootout Nov. 11.

"When we come back in this kind of game, it gives us confidence," Hornqvist said. "It gives us a good boost, to know what we're capable to do. Today was a step in the right direction."

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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