If there is one thing the Pens knew going into the First Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it was that the Columbus Blue Jackets play a gritty game that would continue each time they hit the ice.
In Game 2, just as expected, the Jackets came out fighting. But the Pens fought back with Carter Rowney paving the way.
"Carter has played very well for us," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "He is a solid two-way player. He is playing the wing right now, but he is a center iceman by trade. He has played the wing and he has the ability to play both. I thought Cully's (Matt Cullen) line in general had a really strong night. They had offensive zone time, they had good momentum, they were finishing checks and Carter is the one who led the charge there."
The right-winger made his presence known early in the first period where he had two huge hits, one on Jack Johnson along the wall. He continued his tenacity on the PK, where he contributed with clears and even killed time by possessing the puck in the offensive zone. His ultimate goal was fairly simple though: bring energy and make plays.
"I am just trying to bring some energy to the team however possible and I am not going out there looking for that hit," Rowney said. "When it is there I just try to bump them somehow, it slows them down. Just trying to bring some energy to the team however I can."
The 6-foot-2 Grand Prairie native also created opportunities, creating a shorthanded scoring chance for fellow fourth-liner Matt Cullen, but Sergei Bobrovsky made a brilliant save.
"We have to just stick to our game plan and be aware of where they are and take away their time and space," Rowney said. "They have a lot of skilled players over there and stuff so I try to stay with the system and stick with it."
It has been a long road for Rowney to get to the NHL. He spent eight years working his way up the system, but on Jan. 30, 2017, that work paid off when he was able to make his NHL debut at the age of 27. Since then, he has solidified a spot on in the Pens' lineup.
Despite his current success, Rowney is taking nothing for granted.
"Right now, I just kind of take it day by day and try to take it all in," he said. "It is a pretty cool experience, the playoffs and everything, and I think we have a pretty good hockey team. I take it day by day and enjoy it."