Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators at PPG Paints Arena.
* In the Penguins' previous game on Saturday against Nashville, they allowed the Predators to erase a 4-1 deficit before recovering to score twice in the final minute of play to eke out the win. Afterward, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said he hoped his team learned one particular lesson from the game.
"We've got to make sure we hold one another more accountable to continue to play and stay focused on the details of our game," he said. "If we do that, I think we'll do a better job of controlling momentum."
That's exactly what the Penguins did Monday against Ottawa. After getting out to a 2-0 lead in a dominant first period, the Senators came out strong to start the second and cut Pittsburgh's lead to one. But just 1:41 later, Evgeni Malkin scored to swing momentum back onto the Penguins' side.
The same situation happened at the end of the second. After the Senators again cut Pittsburgh's lead to one, this time it took the Penguins all of 53 seconds to regain their two-goal lead. One that they would not relinquish, despite the Senators' best efforts to get them off their game with some nastiness and chippiness.
* Evgeni Malkin jokingly said he needed to be "fire" after it was announced that Sidney Crosby would be out long-term after undergoing surgery to repair a core muscle injury. But as my colleague Sam Kasan put it, he didn't say he was going to be an arsonist.
Malkin scored twice tonight to extend his point streak to six games (3G-8A-11PTS). He has gotten on the scoresheet in his last nine games played dating back to Dec. 6, collecting 16 points (5G-11A) over that stretch. It's been so much fun to watch him step up like this when his team needs him.
"I just feel it," Malkin said. "I want to play so much more. I'm fresh. My legs feel good. I want to play all game (laughs)."
Malkin credited his linemates Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, saying how much they are helping him play at his highest level. And I think it's fair to say that trio is one of, if not the best, in the NHL right now. All three players have been firing on all cylinders and piling up the points since being put together on Nov. 12 against the New York Rangers following Crosby's injury.
Unfortunately, tonight Guentzel was injured immediately after scoring his 20th goal of the season and 200th career point in the third period (get the update here). If Guentzel is out for any length of time, Malkin knows he will be counted on to continue being "fire."
"I hope the (other) injured guys are back soon and I hope (Guentzel) is not out so long," Malkin said. "It didn't look good. But everyone understands it's hockey. It's tough. Sometimes we have a couple injuries. But I need to play better next game if Jake does not play."
* We've been talking a lot about how Alex Galchenyuk has been gaining confidence coming out of the holiday break, and deservedly so. But he's not the only one. Another player who has been quietly finding his game is Dominik Simon, who has also doubled his goal total by scoring twice in the last three games.
Tonight's tally was a pretty play from start to finish. Simon took a touch pass from Patric Hornqvist in stride and pushed it over to Joseph Blandisi along the boards. The forward - back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Saturday against Nashville - gave it back to Simon as he drove to the net, where he lifted a backhander over Ottawa goalie Marcus Hogberg.
While Malkin, Guentzel and Rust have been carrying the majority of the load offensively, when the Penguins can get guys like Simon and Galchenyuk going, it's huge - especially with all of the injuries.
* The Pens had a number of pretty plays in this game. But the one that really stood out was John Marino's assist on Hornqvist's goal. The rookie defenseman played the puck through his legs while skating backwards to maintain possession. He then forced a pass through the crease to Hornqvist, who finished the play.
"I just kind of reacted," Marino said. "I was lucky to get it to (Hornqvist) and he made a great play."