Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 7-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place.
* What a season-opening road trip for the Penguins. Despite missing several key players - Evgeni Malkin, Alex Galchenyuk, Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad - the Penguins put together two tremendous team efforts and ended up with four huge points. After 12 different players got on the scoresheet in Saturday's 7-4 win over Minnesota, 12 different players again got on the scoresheet in tonight's 7-2 win over Winnipeg.
The Penguins felt that Thursday's 2-1 win over Anaheim at PPG Paints Arena was also a good group win. They said that if they continued to play the game the right way by keeping it simple (more on that here), they could win on any given night. And that's exactly what has happened, with the goals starting to come in bunches as a result.
"We're starting to really form an identity that I think is a whole lot of fun," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "When everybody contributes the way this team has come together over the last week, I think it's a real rewarding experience for everybody involved."
* What a weekend of firsts for Sam Lafferty - who was, without question, the breakout star of the trip. On Saturday in Minnesota, he picked up his first NHL assist on Adam Johnson's first career goal, tallied a second assist on Joseph Blandisi's first goal as a member of the Penguins and then topped it off with his first NHL goal on an empty net.
Tonight in Winnipeg, Lafferty scored his first NHL goal on a netminder, first career game-winner after he put home a pass from Blandisi in the second period and first career two-goal game after scoring again in the third period.
"Three wins in a row and playing a bit, it's been great," Lafferty said. "It's been really fun. I'm just playing and right now pucks are going in, so you want to ride that out as much as you can."
When the Penguins first sent Lafferty down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in training camp, Sullivan told him that he has the potential to be a serviceable, valuable role player for this organization. And while it looks like he's realizing that potential much sooner than expected, this really is something he's been working towards his entire life starting as a kid growing up a die-hard Penguins fan in Hollidaysburg, Pa.
It's a credit to Lafferty and his character that he's getting the opportunity of a lifetime and is making the most of it instead of getting overwhelmed by the circumstance.
"He's earned his playing time," Sullivan said. "He's just playing terrific hockey. He makes a difference every game he's been in. As a result he's getting more ice time. I think he really understands his role. He's taken pride in it. You can see it every shift, I think he's gaining more confidence. I think the most important thing is that we always felt like Sam was close coming into this training camp this year. But he has a whole lot more confidence in himself that he belongs here. That's great for him and it's great for us."
* Lafferty wasn't the only two-goal scorer in this game, as he was joined by Jake Guentzel and Zach Aston-Reese. What stood out the most about Guentzel and Aston-Reese's goals was that they were all scored from in and around the blue paint (save for Aston-Reese's shorthanded breakaway).
Those guys are, as Sullivan likes to say, brave. They're not afraid to go to the hard areas and take a beating to make a play. Tonight, they got rewarded for it.
* Guentzel and Crosby's linemate Dominik Simon joined in on the fun on the scoresheet as well. He's been doing a lot of little things that tend to go unnoticed, but tonight he also got rewarded for his hard work with his first goal of the season.
On the play, Simon did a tremendous job of getting in on the forecheck, digging the puck out of the corner and working it back to the point.
He then went straight to the net, where Marcus Pettersson's shot actually hit him before bouncing over to Crosby, who kicked (yes, you read that right) the puck over to Simon for the goal.
* Congratulations to Kris Letang, who became the first defenseman in Penguins history and the ninth active blueliner to record 500 career points with his assist on Lafferty's first goal.