Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden...
* The Pens keep rolling. They finished off the month of December with the second most points in the entire NHL, and they've brought that success into 2019.
Thanks to a victory against the Rangers, the Pens have a 7-game winning streak, wins in 9 of their last 10 and a 12-2-1 record in the past 15. Pittsburgh also swept its 3-game road swing (St. Louis, Minnesota, NYR).
* The Pens received contributions from throughout the lineup in New York. Zach Aston-Reese and Dominik Simon provided secondary scoring while big guns Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby also scored. When Pittsburgh spreads the wealth, it is impossible to stop.
* Aston-Reese, who grew up a Pens fan in Staten Island, had some family at the game. Following his second-period goal, the camera panned to a shot of his father with long grey hair cheering loudly with a beer in hand like a rock star. Flow for days. A proud father, as he should be.
* Sweet play by the ageless Matt Cullen (actually 42 in human years) to setup Aston-Reese. Cullen had the puck in the corner. As he skated toward the net he made a backhand pass through some legs and sticks to Aston-Reese's tape in the slot.
* Bryan Rust returned to action after missing 1 game with a lower-body injury. He made an immediate impact. With the Pens trapped in their own zone and his stick broken from a blocking a shot, Rust - in typical fashion - dove and swatted the puck out of the zone with his glove.
In the second period Rust provided a perfect screen in front of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist that allowed Jake Guentzel to score. Guentzel's shot went off of the stick of Marc Staal, who was forced to engage with Rust at the crease.
* Goaltender Matt Murray was once again spectacular. He was at his best in the first period as the Pens struggled early to find their game. After a bad line change by the Pens, Vladislav Namestnikov had a break. Murray blockered away his shot. Murray also stopped Pavel Buchnevich on a half-slapper from the slot. That kept it 0-0 entering the second period. From there the Pens would score 4 times in 9:16 minutes.
* It's amazing how the Pens have dominated Lundqvist - a future Hall-of-Fame goaltender - over the past 3 seasons. Pittsburgh couldn't buy a goal against the "King" from about 2013 to 2015. Then head coach Mike Sullivan arrived, a net was flipped and ever since then Lundqvist has melted down against Pittsburgh. It's a wild turn of events.
Per Pens stat legend Bob Grove, Lundqvist has been pulled in 6 of his last 13 starts against the Pens (including playoffs). That includes tonight when he was relieved after allowing 6 goals on 18 shots.
* The Pens' power play added another tally on the evening, the 4th straight game. Pittsburgh's power play has scored on 8 of its past 10 opportunities.