Thoughts, musings, and observations from the Pens' 3-1 win against the Blue Jackets in Game 1 at PPG Paints Arena...
* There's never a dull moment with this team. With Matt Murray a late scratch after getting injured in warmups, Marc-Andre Fleury ended up getting the start in goal for Pittsburgh. There have been countless amazing moments at PPG Paints Arena, but the ovation he got from the crowd when he led the Pens onto the ice will stand out as one of the best.
* Fleury had his work cut out for him early. The Pens were off their game in the first period, and it resulted in them being stuck in their end for most of the first period. Columbus dominated possession and the shot clock with their physicality, forecheck and play along the boards. They outshot the Pens 16-3 and caused them a lot of trouble on their breakouts. But the veteran netminder was there for his team, making timely saves and allowing them to settle into the game.
* The Pens regrouped during the first intermission and made adjustments for the second. They came out and set the tone immediately with a goal from Bryan Rust just 1:15 in. From there, they switched the momentum to their side and completely dominated the period. They outshot the Jackets 16-4 and found the back of the net three times.
* Then in the final frame, they put forth an impressive defensive effort. After struggling to break out in the first, they excelled in that area for the third. Guys did a tremendous job clearing out the front of the net and making sure Fleury didn't see any second or third efforts, and getting out of their zone.
* The Pens cleaned up the X's and O's, that's for sure. They simplified their game, executed and made smart decisions with the puck. They got back to playing Penguins hockey - skating fast and using their speed to get the puck up ice and behind their D. But I think the biggest thing was just how calm and steady they looked. There was no panic in their game. They just went out there and got the job done.
* Phil Kessel said yesterday that each time the playoffs come around, "you have to raise your game." He certainly took his to another level, as Kessel played absolutely inspiring hockey. He played a strong 200-foot game and was at his best offensively. He scored on the power play (off a penalty he drew), added a primary assist and got stopped on a breakaway. He played exactly the kind of game that the Pens need from him.
* Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup after being out for 20 of the last 35 regular-season games, and of course looked like he didn't miss a step. Malkin played on a line with Kessel and Bryan Rust, who was his winger during the Stanley Cup run, and set him up for a couple gorgeous chances. He earned an assist at even strength and on the power play, where it was phenomenal to see him back. His presence changes everything with his vision and shot.