Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at Pegula Ice Arena at Penn State…
* First of all, we should note that this was not an evenly matched contest. While the Sabres opted to dress most of their big boys - Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Rasmus Dahlin, Carter Hutton - the Pens went in the other direction. Pittsburgh decided to see how many of its younger prospects would fair against Buffalo's stacked lineup.
The Penguins fell behind 4-1 after two periods of play, and were being outshot by a remarkable 37-9. But the Penguins showed a lot of guts in the third period, scoring thrice to tie the game at 4-4. In fact, the Pens had four goals on 13 shots at one point.
"I thought our guys battled hard," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "I was really pleased with the fight. Our guys played pretty hard against a really strong lineup."
* The coaching staff gave forward Dominik Simon a look at center. He worked a line with Zach Aston-Reese and Bryan Rust. Simon played center for a lot of his hockey career. It wasn't until the age of 20 that he shifted to wing permanently. But his play at center during this summer's World Championship for Czech Republic gave the coaching staff the idea to give it a try.
"For this first game we thought he had a strong game," Sullivan said. "We liked what we saw when we saw him at the World Championships. That's when we started to discuss Dominik as an option. I'm not sure where we'll go with it, but we thought we'd explore it through this exhibition season."
The Pens are hoping that if needed they can use Simon at center during the regular season. One area they want to see him work on is his faceoffs. Simon will be working closely with development coach Matt Cullen in that aspect. Tonight, was the first test run. So far, so good.
* It was a stellar showing from goaltender Tristan Jarry, who is battling for a job as the Penguins backup goaltender. Jarry came in cold halfway through the game (Casey DeSmith got the start) and immediately stopped Tage Thompson on a breakaway. Then he slid over to stop Conor Sheary on a one-timer chance off of a 2-on-1 rush. He was under fire from the get-go, and held his own. His biggest save was a sliding, split-pad save on Thompson with five minutes left and the game tied.
"It's nice to get thrown into the fire," Jarry said. "It's fun in an exhibition.
"As the game goes on you settle in a little more. We haven't played in almost four months. So it's getting back into game action. It was nice to step into one like that."
* As far as making an impression, keep an eye on defenseman John Marino. Pittsburgh acquired him from Edmonton for a sixth-round pick, and I can see why management thinks so highly of him. Marino has a lot skill and is a smooth skater. He's a perfect fit for the Penguins' system. That was on full display when he carried the puck all way along the boards to below the goal line before sending a perfect pass to Sam Lafferty's stick on the opposite side of the goal. Lafferty scored to finish the play.
* Lafferty is a hometown boy, growing up 40 minutes away in Hollidaysburg. He had a lot of family and friends in the crowd tonight, and he put on a show with his tally.
"It was a special night," Lafferty said. "It's my first time skating on this ice. It's something I'll remember forever."
* The Pens played the Sabres in this same arena two years ago. And just like it was two years ago, the atmosphere was electric. The small arena was filled and the student section was rowdy, providing a true college feeling. They were banging, chanting and filling the small venue with energy.
"It's a great environment. It's a great rink that we're playing in," said Sullivan, who played at Boston University. "It's an electric environment. And that's my recollection of college hockey, that intimate setting. For our guys to play an exhibition game like this is exciting."