Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 3-2 win over San Jose on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena…
- The Pens got banged up tonight. They started the game without Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Conor Sheary. They ended it without Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot. Both defensemen left in the second period and did not return for the third, leaving the Pens with four blueliners (head coach Mike Sullivan had no update on them after the game). Brian Dumoulin and Trevor Daley were one pair; Ian Cole and Justin Schultz the other. Those guys gutted it out in a tough situation, keeping the Sharks from adding to the 2-0 lead they took into that period and allowing their team to get back in it. I was impressed with Schultz in particular, as he had already been asked to step into a much bigger role quarterbacking the power play.
- After their 4-0 loss to Montreal on Tuesday, Sullivan said his team needed to be a more difficult team to play against, starting with their discipline. But he said it also meant staying with their game plan, not deviating and making sure they had resilience to stay the course when things didn't go their way. The first two periods, particularly the middle frame, were the opposite of that as they were down 2-0 and two defensemen after 40 minutes. As Evgeni Malkin told me, they weren't playing smart. They could have folded at that point, but instead, they got back on track, started playing the right way and got three huge goals to get the win. What a response.
"We were down to four D and we said in the room we have to simplify the game here," winger Patric Hornqvist said. "Play quick and we don't have to be that cute out there. I think we came out with our best period of the year so far and got a huge win for this group."
- It actually looked like the Pens' discipline was starting to waver early in the third when Malkin took an ill-advised tripping penalty, and he admitted after the game he was mad at himself for spending too much time in the box to start the season. But he was able to channel that frustration into his play on the ice, as he went right back out there and started the comeback with a huge goal.
- I loved the leadership from him and Hornqvist. What a performance from the Swedish winger. That man left it all out there on the ice, just like he does every shift of every game. He plays with so much energy and passion and work ethic and is just such a reliable net-front presence. Hornqvist thought he put one in from there during the second period, but it was called off after it was determined he batted it in with his hand. Hornqvist kept plugging away and ended up getting the game-winner on the power play late in the third.
- I'll be honest, the power play didn't look great for most of the night. It certainly didn't help they were without key personnel. The Pens were forced to craft units that didn't necessarily look like they were on the same page for much of the night. There was some miscommunication and they definitely struggled at times getting the puck up ice and entering the zone. But at the end of the night, it was incredibly advantageous, coming through with the game-winner. That's what counts.
Typically, the Pens' second period is their best. But this one was anything but. Not only did they give up two goals; they didn't spend a lot of time down in the other end - getting outshot 17-4 in the period. It didn't help the Pens missed the net A LOT tonight. Matt Cullen in particular had a few quality chances early in the game that sailed wide of the cage. If one of those goes in, it's a completely different game. It was one of those nights where they just couldn't hit the net.