Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 4-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center...
* Tom Kuhnhackl appeared to be on the cusp of being a healthy scratch for the Pens. During two practices prior to Pittsburgh's home contest against Vancouver, Kuhnhackl was relegated to an observer during line rushes. But a surprise upper-body injury to Evgeni Malkin allowed Kuhnhackl to stay in the lineup.
Kuhnhackl played well enough in the ensuing four games that he remained in the lineup when Malkin returned tonight against Buffalo. And he really made the most of the opportunity.
Kuhnhackl separated from the Sabres defense for a breakaway in the first period. Though he was unable to score, he received a penalty shot from the officials. Kuhnhackl skated in on goalie Robin Lehner, waited for the netminder to drop to his knees and lifted a shot over his shoulder to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.
A hat tip to Malkin on the goal. Kuhnhackl said that before the penalty shot he heard Malkin yelling, "Kuni! Kuni! Go high glove!" Kuhnhackl listened and Malkin's scouting report was spot on.
Kuhnhackl's goal was his first of the season, and first regular-season goal since March 3, 2017 against Tampa Bay. He recorded a career-high 5 shots on goal and a plus-2 on the night. It was a great performance, and a much-needed confidence boost.
* Rookie Tristan Jarry will be the main man between the pipes for the Penguins as starter Matt Murray recovers from his lower-body injury. Jarry stopped all 34 shots he faced against Buffalo to record his first career shutout.
And the Sabres made him earn it. He had recorded several tough stops on Sam Reinhart, Ryan O'Reilly, Marco Scandella - whom Jarry stopped with the shaft of his goalie stick - and a wicked glove stop on Nathan Beaulieu. Most impressive was Jarry's battle level. The Sabres crashed the net hard and even knocked Jarry around a few times. Games like this can take a toll physically, but even more so mentally. Jarry was able to remain composed and gave the Penguins a perfect performance.
* Sidney Crosby continued his tear on the league with one goal and two points against the Sabres. He extended his scoring streak to 5 games (5G-6A-11PTS), and notched his 54th- and 55th-career points against Buffalo in 36 career games.
Terry Pegula may own the Sabres, but Crosby has leased them during his career.
* Speaking of tearing things up, Jake Guentzel deposited his 12th goal of the season on a smart read-and-react play. Guentzel had the puck at the side of the net. When Lehner dropped down, Guentzel pulled the puck for a wraparound try knowing the 6-foot-4 Lehner had a lot of real estate to get to the opposite post. Needless to say, Guentzel beat him there.
Guentzel now has 6 goals in his last 5 games, and 7 in his last 7.
* Malkin picked up an assist on Guentzel's goal. He returned to game action after missing 4 games with an upper-body injury.
* Defenseman Ian Cole returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past 3 contests. He delivered a crushing neutral zone hit on Evander Kane. Cole has really stepped up his physical game this season, and a showing like tonight may be what it takes to keep him in the lineup.