Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 5-4 overtime win over the New York Rangers…
* Evgeni Malkin always talks about how it's his job to score goals. He also spoke Monday about how he and his line needed to be better. He came to work in that regard tonight, as he scored the overtime winner to go along with three assists. In addition, Sidney Crosby stepped up with the game-tying tally with under a minute left, and to see those two get on the scoresheet when the team needed it most is exactly what you want to see from your leaders.
* Crosby was especially motivated to get his goal after he was given a double-minor for high sticking in the second period that the Rangers scored a couple of power-play goals on (more on that sequence later). "You never like being in the box and seeing a couple go in," he said. "It's never a great feeling. I think you come out of there pretty motivated when you see that happen." He ended up responding with an incredibly cerebral goal during 6-on-5 play. Patric Hornqvist had gloved the puck, so Crosby had the wherewithal to let Kevin Shattenkirk touch it first to negate the whistle. He then picked it up and banked a backhand shot off Henrik Lundqvist from below the goal line.
* After practice on Monday, Malkin said he and Phil Kessel needed to simplify their game at times, saying he felt like they looked for each other too much and were too worried about making pretty plays. "We try to play beautiful every time but it's not working anymore," Malkin said. "We need to change a little bit of our game and play a little bit straight line to the net." Well, they did that on Tuesday - and as a result, scored a beautiful goal. On their first shift of the game, Malkin hit Kessel with a cross-ice pass just inside the zone. And instead of giving it back, Kessel kept it - beelining for the net and sniping a nasty shot into the far corner of the net just 43 seconds in. That play was vintage Kessel, and something we haven't seen for a while.
* I know strong starts are always important, but tonight it was even more crucial to get one knowing the Rangers would come out a motivated group after losing three straight (and earning just one win in their first six games). They were able to do that, starting with Kessel's goal and continuing with good, solid play. It helped that the defensemen did a great job breaking the puck out. They were smart and patient with that first pass, allowing their forwards to get up the ice and gain the zone. A perfect example of that was Olli Maatta springing Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin on a 2-on-1, the latter of whom scored on an absolute snipe. Overall, it was a great 20 minutes.
* Mike Sullivan has been talking a lot about the Penguins being harder to play against, and they got away from that in the second period when they allowed the Rangers to score three times in a 2:30 span. It began when David Desharnais capitalized on some sloppy D-zone play to get the Rangers on the board. Right after that, Crosby was given that aforementioned double-minor for high sticking and the Rangers scored on each one. Needless to say, that was a tough couple of minutes for the Pens and it's where the game started getting away from them.
* Overall, the Pens have to do a better job of staying disciplined, especially when it comes to stick infractions. After the high-stick, Crosby and Hagelin each took slashing penalties within two seconds of each other, leading to a lengthy 5-on-3. And while the Pens did an excellent job of killing it off, that's a lot to ask of your shorthanded specialists. Fortunately, they were able to gain a lot of momentum from watching those guys completely thwart the Rangers and got a big goal from Hornqvist right after. They displayed what Sullivan likes to call "stick-to-it-iveness."