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Pens Praise Gaudreau After Outstanding Play

He was one of many Penguins who stepped up in their 5-2 win over Buffalo on Wednesday

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

The best play of the Penguins' 5-2 win over Buffalo on Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena, by far, came from Frederick Gaudreau.

With the Penguins killing off a penalty in the final minute of the second period, Gaudreau picked off a pass at his own blue line. He collected it with one hand and managed to drag it around defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. 

Gaudreau then went in on a mini breakaway and carried it just far enough to get Dahlin and backchecking forward Taylor Hall out of position, which is when he dished it back to a trailing Zach Aston-Reese for the slam dunk to earn his first point as a Penguin in his fourth game of the season.

Video: BUF@PIT: Aston-Reese buries Gaudreau's feed for SHG

After the game, Gaudreau - who earned the player of the game helmet - earned praise from his teammates and coach, who raved about the play.

"Just a great effort and honestly, I had no idea he was going to give me the puck," Aston-Reese admitted. "I was in awe of the play he made. It was a really nice play. I watched the replay, I thought it looked like I was going to kiss him, almost (laughs)."

As John Marino said, it couldn't happen to a better guy, as Gaudreau - who is seeing his first NHL action since 2019 - has endeared himself to everyone around him with his amazing approach to hockey and life in general.

"We're thrilled for him," Sullivan said. "He's such a hard-working player. He's got a great attitude. He's such a positive guy. He doesn't take anything for granted. He's earned his way back into the NHL. He's earned the minutes that he's getting in our in our lineup. Those types of guys, you just root for, you know?"

Marino also said that Aston-Reese should buy him dinner, and the winger agreed.

"I'll definitely get his groceries," Aston-Reese said. "I saw him at Whole Foods the other night, so next time I'll grab his groceries for him."

Heading into the game, Sullivan had been vocal about saying they needed more from the rest of the group - particularly the bottom-nine forwards, with Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust carrying the load offensively through all of the injuries. 

Sullivan said it was a great opportunity for other guys to step up and contribute, and Gaudreau was one of many who did so to help the Penguins get two huge points, as twelve different players appeared on the scoresheet.

"It's hard to win in the absence of contributions throughout the lineup, and when we get it tonight, you can see the difference in the outcome," Sullivan said. "I thought our team played a pretty solid game for the most part. And to see guys that don't normally score goals get rewarded for some of their efforts, I think was great on our part."

The Penguins coaching staff had tweaked the lines slightly in practice on Tuesday in an attempt to figure out the best combinations that would give them more contributions throughout their lineup, along with some balance. 

They moved Aston-Reese with McCann and Kasperi Kapanen - who left the game with a lower-body injury and is currently being evaluated - and slotted Rodrigues alongside with Mark Jankowski and Sam Lafferty. It's a move that paid off, as that trio had immediate success.

They were buzzing from the drop of the puck, and were denied on a 3-on-1 during one of their first shifts of the night. They ended up making up for it shortly after by earning another odd-man rush that they converted after Lafferty sauced a perfect pass to Rodrigues at the side of the crease.

"I thought Jankowski's line had a real solid game, and so to see those guys contribute on the scoresheet is great for them, it's great for the team," Sullivan said. "Hopefully this is something that we can build on moving forward."

Sullivan also praised the play of Gaudreau's line with Colton Sceviour and Anthony Angello. In addition, the Penguins got two goals from the blue line with Marino and Kris Letang finding the back of the net, and of course, the captain had yet another phenomenal performance - finishing with a goal, an assist, seven shots and going 14-5 in the faceoff dot.

As Rodrigues said, they're going to continue to need full team efforts like this one to find success through the injuries and condensed schedule.

"I think guys just kind of take advantage of the extra ice time, extra opportunity and do the most they can to help the team win," he said. "We obviously have a great leader, and everyone kind of just follows by example."

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