After Pittsburgh’s narrow 2-1 win over the New York Islanders on Tuesday, head coach Mike Sullivan said he wanted to see more production from his second line, putting emphasis on their lack of scoring.
In a must win game for Carolina on Thursday at CONSOL Energy Center, the Pens’ second line silenced all doubts after an offensive masterpiece that sealed the Penguins 38th win of the season.
After falling to an early 2-0 deficit from Phillip Di Giuseppe and Riley Nash goals, Sidney Crosby finally opened Pittsburgh's scoring with an unassisted goal at the 6:07 mark in the first period.
From there on out, the Carl Hagelin, Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino trio took flight, combining for six points (2G, 4A) between the second and third period to overtake Carolina 4-2.
“Coming out early we ate a couple crappy goals from some bad bounces,” Bonino said. “It sucks but I liked the way we responded. It felt like we were in their zone the whole night. We made some pretty good plays with the puck and were able to get those goals back.”
Ian Cole started the breakout leading to the second goal. Cole put the puck toward the slot, Hagelin kicked it towards Kessel who found the net for the tying goal with 7:44 left in the second.
Hagelin also picked up secondary assists on the third and fourth goals.
“I knew he was there,” Hagelin said about his assist to Kessel. “I tried to kick it to to myself or him. It came off my skate a little harder than expected but he finished. We used our speed to create chances and were pretty good off the rush. That’s what it comes down to. We’re making sure we come back hard and when we get the puck deep in our zone we need good breakouts.”
Pittsburgh’s final goal was their highlight of the night. Hagelin banked a pass off the back wall from the left side of the goal to the right, where Kessel was waiting for a quick pass to the slot towards a centered Bonino, who put away the puck. It was Bonino’s first goal since March 6, and his second goal since November 7.
“Goals, especially for me this year, have been tough. When your shooting percentage is at 5 percent it’s frustrating. I put five shots on net last game and five shots tonight, so I was able to get one in on an old teammate there, Eddie Lack, so that always feels good.”