Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 3-1 win over Carolina…
* The Pens truly weathered a storm against the Hurricanes. I know it's a cliché, but it couldn't be more fitting for this game. This wasn't the Pens' best effort by far. The Canes came at them in waves and they spent a lot of time in their own end, particularly in the first half of the game. But at the end of the night, they were able to find a way to come back to Pittsburgh with two points, and that's what counts. And the Pens did get better as the game went on. Their third period was their best, as they allowed just six shots after giving up 24 in the first two.
* Discipline was an issue for Pittsburgh tonight. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined to take five penalties in the game, forcing a penalty kill missing Nick Bonino (illness) to constantly go over the boards. But they were up for the challenge and did an admirable job for the most part, save for one broken play that ended up in the back of the net for Carolina's lone goal.
* I will give credit to Crosby and Malkin. After taking those penalties, they battled back to help their team in the best way possible - on the scoresheet. Crosby scored the game-winner and Malkin added to the lead.
* I also have to give credit to the Hurricanes. The Pens talked this morning about how aggressiveness defines their top-ranked penalty kill, but that applied to their entire game. They were all over the Pens, winning battles and forcing turnovers and making it hard on them.
* Speaking of Carolina's penalty kill, the Pens were very opportunistic on the power play. They had a golden opportunity when they were awarded a 5-on-3 for 1:04 minutes late in the second period, but at first it looked like it was going to be a microcosm of their overall game. Crosby talked this morning about work ethic and execution, and none of that was there. But that changed when Phil Kessel got the puck on his stick, carried to the center blue line and put it on net for Crosby to tip in.
* It was a busy night for Matt Murray, who saw 30 shots on the night and had the puck down in his end for a decent portion of the evening. But he was up to the challenge, keeping his team in it and allowing them to eventually break through. If it wasn't for his stellar goaltending, it certainly wouldn't have stayed a 1-1 game during that first half when Carolina dominated play.
*The Pens won't make excuses for themselves. Mike Sullivan refused to do so this morning, saying they had to find ways to fight through the challenges of the schedule and the way to do that was to play smart hockey and use their brains so that they didn't have to waste energy.
But I think that schedule (this was their fourth game in six nights) and injuries - especially to the back end - are starting to catch up with them, because they really struggled in that regard tonight. The Pens weren't making the smartest decisions with and without the puck, particularly in their own end. But keep in mind a blue line already missing Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta lost Trevor Daley, who left after the first period and did not return. They gutted this one out and now have three days off before the Stadium Series on Saturday, and it will be a much-needed and well-deserved mental and physical break.