Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 4-3 overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens at PPG Paints Arena.
*The Pens are the best team in the NHL when playing from behind. That's where they found themselves in the final minute of the third period against the Habs on New Year's Eve.
And this team, which has showed incredible resolve when trailing, responded. Pittsburgh managed to tie the game with 54 seconds left in regulation before pulling out the win in overtime. If there's one thing we know about this Pens team: they can never be counted out.
*Want to see some sick skill? Watch Evgeni Malkin's pass to set up Patric Hornqvist on the Pens' first goal. The duo were streaking on a 2-on-1 when defenseman Shea Weber - all 6-foot-4, 232 pounds of him - sprawled out to take away the pass. The passing lane between Weber's skate and Price's pad was smaller than my bank account. Yet Malkin was able to thread the puck through and perfectly onto the tape of Hornqvist. There are only a few people in the world that can make that pass. One of them wears No. 71 for the Penguins.
*Speaking of Malkin, he also scored the game-winning overtime goal with a nasty one-timer on the power play. He finished with 2 points in the contest, giving him 43 on the season. He enters 2017 as the NHL scoring leader.
*Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant in the third period with his team trailing 3-2. He stopped a Brendan Gallagher shot from the left circle. Followed by a poke check on Max Pacioretty on a breakaway and Paul Byron's follow up attempt. Then Fleury made a sliding, split pad save on Gallagher on a 2-on-1 cross-ice one-timer. Fleury kept it a 1-goal game and gave the Pens a chance to tie the game. Without Fleury's third-period performance the Pens lose this game. Instead, they steal 2 points.
*It was a redemptive night for Phil Kessel. He's had some crazy, bad luck lately in the goal-scoring department (though he has been racking up assists in bunches). In back-to-back games Kessel had breakaway chances thwarted when his stick snapped in his hands.
In the first period against the Canadiens he had another breakaway opportunity. This time as he went to turn the puck over it bounced off of his stick and into the corner.
Finally, in the second period Kessel had some redemption. He caught a pass from Carl Hagelin, used his body to shield defender Ryan Johnston and had another breakaway. This time, while wearing Johnston as a cape, Kessel went to his backhand and lifted the puck past Carey Price.
*Speaking of that move by Kessel, that may be the first time I've ever seen him use the backhand on a breakaway. If he has used it before, it's been a darn long time. He typically likes to key in on a spot and then use the hard snap shot with sniper-like precision.
*The Kessel goal was also a display of how defense can be quickly turned into offense. On the play the Habs had a 3-on-1 in the Pens zone. Defenseman Olli Maatta stick checked the puck aside. Kessel alertly jumped up ice and Hagelin hit him with a pass. Transition attack at its finest.
*Defenseman Kris Letang returned to the lineup after missing 7 games with a lower-body injury. He jumped right back into his usual form. Though he didn't see action on the team's No. 1 power play (Justin Schultz remained there), he did work with the second unit and logged over 25 minutes of ice time. Letang also picked up 2 assists in his return on the game-tying and winning tallies. Letang is a difference maker and against the Habs he made a difference.