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Pens finally get rewarded

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Control the process.

That had been head coach Mike Sullivan's message to his players after Friday's 2-1 loss to New Jersey at Prudential Center, a game where the Penguins did everything right but didn't get the result. 

They defended hard, the penalty kill was strong, the power play had good looks, and the team generated a bunch of quality scoring chances - they just didn't get the bounces. 

"I think that we've shown plenty of evidence that we do score," Sullivan said after the game. "There's been nights we've generated a fair amount of goals throughout the course of the season. All we can do, I think - and this is what I say to the players - is control the process. Hopefully, when you play the game the right way - and we feel we are right now - that results will follow."

The players clearly felt the same way. Nobody was hanging their heads after the game. In fact, both Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel talked about how they couldn't wait to get back at it tonight against Toronto.

"I think most nights if we play like that, we'll come out on top. Good thing we got another one tomorrow," Guentzel said.

"Just forget this game and get ready for tomorrow. We know it's coming if we play the same game," Malkin said.

Boy, did it ever.

The Penguins' offense broke through in their 6-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena. Dominik Kahun scored twice while Malkin, Guentzel, Jared McCann and Bryan Rust rounded out the scoring. 

They tallied once on the power play and once shorthanded as overall, 10 different Penguins recorded points in the win.

"I think we played good the last games, we just didn't get rewarded for it," Kahun said. "It was important that we get a better start today and we did."

Guentzel opened the scoring just 6:38 into the first period. As if scoring the first goal wasn't a big enough boost for a team that hadn't done so for a six-game stretch, he got it on the power play, which has been struggling to convert. 

"It's nice to get out on top early," Guentzel said. "I think that was what we wanted to do. It hasn't always gone our way lately, but to get that one on the power play I think is a huge confidence booster for us."

Tonight, that unit attacked with a shoot-first mentality, and that was a common denominator on the rest of Pittsburgh's goals.

"I always say that's sports, you try to always do your best but sometimes nothing goes in and sometimes, like today, everything goes in," Kahun said. "But we said we need to shoot more for sure and get bodies there, and I think we did a good job today."

They ended up firing 38 shots on Leafs rookie goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo, making his NHL debut in the game. And down at the other end, while the Penguins limited the amount of shots that Tristan Jarry faced, the speedy and skilled Leafs still had plenty of chances. 

This was a tough test for the Penguins netminder. Not only was he making just his second start in a three-week span; he was going up against a Toronto team with tons of firepower. He was terrific in what was just his second start in a three-week span. 

"I think it's just staying focused," said Jarry when talking about what allowed him to have success tonight. "(Goaltending coach) Mike Buckley helped me a lot in practice just staying focused and staying on task with drills and making sure my mindset was in a good place. I think helped a lot leading into tonight."

Overall, this win was such positive reinforcement for the message that Sullivan has been preaching ever since he took over as head coach: Play the right way.

"We came out from the drop of the puck hard and took it through the whole way," Rust said. "I think it's big, especially on a back-to-back playing against a good team. We knew we had to play hard defensively and pay attention to those details because their team has a lot of skill and I think we did well tonight."

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