Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 4-1 loss to Chicago…
I thought the Pens deserved better in this game, which was an entertaining one to watch. I don't think the score necessarily reflects how even the play was, as it was 2-1 until the final minutes when the Pens made a push. This was one of the Pens' better games as of late. They created a ton of scoring chances for themselves and spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, but just couldn't get enough of them to fall. It was two talented teams going at it, and the Hawks were just more opportunistic when it came to finishing their chances.
Both Jim Rutherford and Mike Sullivan talked before the game about how important Marc Andre Fleury is to this team, how they're going to need him moving into the final stretch of the season and how they feel like the Pens have the best goalie tandem in the league. He certainly emphasized that with his play tonight. Fleury was brilliant, standing on his head (sometimes literally, it felt) for stretches. The Blackhawks are a talented team with a lot of skill and they also created a lot of scoring opportunities, but Fleury did everything he could to keep his team in the game.
Fleury's best sequence came in the second period, where he made an actual flurry of saves. First he stopped Ryan Hartman with his glove, and the rebound popped out to a crashing Brent Seabrook. Fleury dove across his crease and hit the ice just in time to stop the puck from crossing the line. He topped it off by robbing Richard Panik. It was an incredible sequence of saves from the Pens netminder, and soon after, the Pens went down and tied it.
As Mike Sullivan likes to say, Sidney Crosby plays inspiring hockey every night. But tonight he looked extra motivated, and Sullivan took advantage, double-shifting him with his usual linemates Jake Guentzel and Chris Kunitz and then slotting in between Matt Cullen and Phil Kessel. Crosby had chance after chance, but none of them wanted to fall. However, it certainly wasn't for lack of trying.
Ron Hainsey had a noticeable game in a positive way. The defenseman made his presence felt early when he sent Dennis Rasmussen over the boards and into the Pens bench with a hard check. He then earned his first point as a Pen when he set up Scott Wilson with a beautiful feed for Pittsburgh's only goal.
Speaking of Wilson, he, Carter Rowney and Tom Kuhnhackl had a good night as the Pens' fourth line. Rutherford and Sullivan said there would be opportunities for the young guys knocking on the door with Eric Fehr being traded to Toronto, and those three made a case for themselves tonight. They had one particularly memorable shift in the second period where they hunted down pucks in the offensive zone, stayed close together and found one another for chance after chance.