Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 3-0 win against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
* After losing the first two games of their three-game road trip (Florida, Tampa Bay), Pittsburgh triumphed in the finale at Dallas. The Penguins were very happy with their play during the trip despite in the 1-2 finish. In fact, head coach Mike Sullivan said there was only one period (second period tonight) on the entire trip that the club wasn't happy about.
The Pens played well enough to win all three games on the road swing. They played the right way and did all the right things. They probably deserved more than just the two points tonight, but the Pens will take them.
* Perhaps bigger than the outcome of the game, was the outcome of a single play. Late in the second period a Kris Letang shot was deflected and hit captain Sidney Crosby in the side of the face. He skated immediately to the bench hunched over and left the game.
Crosby was absent for the start of the third period, but thankfully returned shortly thereafter. For a team already decimated with injuries, it was a huge relief that Crosby was able to return.
* Meanwhile, (some) help has arrived.
Forwards Bryan Rust (upper-body injury) and Nick Bjugstad (lower-body) returned to the lineup and worked on a line together with Patric Hornqvist. It's a big step for a Pittsburgh team that is still missing center Evgeni Malkin (lower-body) and wingers Alex Galchenyuk (lower-body) and Adam Johnson (upper-body). For a team that was so depleted at forward that it was forced to use a defenseman (Juuso Riikola) at forward, any return is huge news.
Rust and Bjugstad, each playing in their first regular-season game of the year, delivered immediately with a late goal halfway through the third period to give the Pens some breathing room. Bjugstad won an offensive zone face off and Rust was able to score on a wraparound play.
* Dominik Kahun finally got on the board for the Pens. It began with Ben Bishop misplaying a puck behind his own net, whiffing on a pass attempt. Kahun stole the puck. As Bishop stumbled back into the goal he fell to the ice and Kahun tried to bank it off of him. Kahun located the rebound and easily potted it.
* The Pens were badly outshot in the opening two periods of the game, 22-11. But the score after 40 minutes was 0-0. The biggest reason was the play of No. 30.
Matt Murray was fantastic in the game. Murray stopped all 25 shots against to post his 11th career shutout and first of the season. He was poised, confident and even a little arrogant. But a good arrogant. An arrogance with a swagger. And that's when he's at his best. Murray looked big in net, challenging shooters and was very active with his glove hand.
One particular sequence late in the second period saw him make three tough saves - two on sniper Alexander Radulov - when the Penguins were pinned and tired. They needed their goaltender to bail them out. He posted that bail.
* Rust suffered his injury in the preseason after blocking a shot with his hand. He said he wouldn't hesitate to block a shot in his return, telling the media "I don't think I'd be here if I didn't (block shots)." True to his word, on just his second shift Rust blocked a heavy slap shot from Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. Promise made, promise kept.