Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers at PPG Paints Arena.
*It was another gutsy third-period comeback for the Pens. On the bright side, they showed a lot of fight and resilience to pull off the comeback. On the bad side they once again spotted an opponent a 2-0 lead and had to play from behind. That's not something that they'll want to make a habit of doing.
*The biggest storyline from tonight's game was certainly the return of Pens captain Sidney Crosby, who missed the opening six games of the season due to a concussion. Crosby looked like he didn't miss a beat from his World Cup of Hockey MVP performance. He skated hard, was speeding around the ice and creating plays. Crosby connected for his first goal of the season on a power play with a nasty wrist shot from the slot. In the first period Crosby, who led the Pens with four shots on goal, turned Calder Trophy-winner Aaron Ekblad inside-out before whipping a hard shot on net that just missed the outside post. After the game he said: "When you miss that much time you try to get involved early, whether it's taking a hit or giving a hit. I'm excited to be back out there and trying to get involved right away."
*Crosby's return created a trickle-down effect. His addition gave the Pens four legitimate scoring lines, which made them a matchup nightmare for the Panthers. Since Florida couldn't key on shutting down just one or two lines, everyone on Pittsburgh had better opportunities. In fact, it was the "third" and "fourth" line that came through in the second and third period to flip a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. It was a result of favorable matchups for Pittsburgh.
*The Pens did a bit of line reshuffling and the trio of Hagelin-Bonino-Rust came through in the third period for a clutch game-tying goal. They seemed to have a spark and were a very productive line in the final period. I wouldn't be surprised if they stayed together and got another look Thursday night against the NY Islanders.
*One play that epitomized the Pens' effort was Tom Kuhnhackl's play on the game-winning goal. Not only did he dig out a 50-50 puck off of a defensive zone faceoff, but then went coast-to-coast to set up Eric Fehr for the winner. It was an incredible individual play.
*The Pens weren't initiating in the first period and forcing the play with their speed. As a result they were on their heels and were caught taking some undisciplined penalties, which resulted in them trailing 2-0 early in the second period. But halfway through the middle frame they started to force the play, won puck battles, used their speed to back off the Panthers and finally took the game over in the third period.