Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 5-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center.
* The Penguins were able to avoid a letdown after two emotional wins over tough opponents, when they broke Boston's 19-game point streak on Sunday and following that up by snapping Washington's 7-game win on Tuesday. Tonight, the Penguins produced an overall solid effort to procure another pair of much-needed points.
"We're finding ways to win games," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "This is a tough challenge when you're coming off some of the emotional games that we had this week. Buffalo is a team that plays hard regardless of who's in their lineup. They're a little bit depleted right now, but they certainly played a hard game tonight."
It was an uneventful first period, where Brian Dumoulin said afterward it felt like both teams were feeling each other out. But the Penguins took total control of the game in the second, using their power play to break the game open with a goal from Phil Kessel and scoring three times total in the period. From there, they did a good job of playing with a lead in the third, continuing to press and getting two more tallies.
"Overall, the first period was not great from either side," Patric Hornqvist said. "Then we got that power play and when you see something like that, when they just pick them apart, that gives everyone momentum and you get confidence and then we got our legs."
* After the Penguins gave up their league-leading 14th shorthanded goal against on Saturday in Columbus, the coaching staff made the decision to split up the top unit before going back to them for a key power play on Tuesday against Washington. They ended up scoring twice in that 5-3 win, and after the game, Sullivan said his reasoning behind reuniting them was really quite simple.
"I keep going back to them because I believe in them," he said. "Sometimes by splitting them up you can effect a little bit of a change, whether it be from a mindset standpoint or whatever it may be that when you do put them back together, it allows them the opportunity to have some success. Whether it creates a little more urgency or it's not taken for granted, whatever it may be."
Justin Schultz said they certainly got some confidence and a boost from that big performance, and they rolled it over into tonight's game. The power play tallied thrice, with goals from Kessel, Hornqvist and Guentzel.
"I think when we're playing our best, it's hard to stop us out there," Hornqvist said. "We move the puck really quick and you see the first goal there, Sid and Phil, they just pick them apart. When those kinds of players get that kind of time, that's what they can do. Right now it's clicking for us and we've just got to make sure we try to get better every day and keep this momentum going."
* After the game, Sullivan and his players couldn't say enough about the play of Casey DeSmith, who made his first start since Feb. 21 against San Jose. Despite the long layoff, he didn't show any signs of rust. DeSmith looked as sharp and as quick as ever, making 26 saves to earn his third shutout of the season.
"I have to give Casey a lot of credit," Hornqvist said. "He kept us in the game in the first period and he was great all night."
Matt Murray is the team's franchise netminder and No. 1 guy, but to know the Penguins can count on DeSmith to come in and play like that when called upon is incredibly encouraging.
"I think you just got to go for it," DeSmith said of his mindset. "That was what I talked to (goalie coach Mike Buckley) about tonight, just going in there and going for it. Don't overthink. Just simplify everything. Play fast, play my own game, don't try to do anything different because I haven't played in a while. Thankfully I was able to do that tonight."