Thoughts, musings, and observations from the Pens' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 2...
* Marc-Andre Fleury was excellent for a second straight game. He once again weathered an early Columbus storm as they came out strong for a second straight game, and continued to be there for his team when they needed him throughout the night. And he was busy, turning aside 39 of 40 shots - many of which came through traffic around his net. He did a terrific job of tracking. His best save came when he stoned Saad on a breakaway late in the third period.
* Mike Sullivan likes to start Sidney Crosby's line every game because of how they set the tone. And off the opening faceoff, Crosby gained the offensive zone and sent a pass over to Jake Guentzel, who nearly re-directed it in. It was the first of many scoring chances they had on the night. That trio was completely dominant for Pittsburgh.
* Their first goal came at a crucial time, as the Jackets had another strong start and put the Pens back on their heels. They were outshooting the Pens 8-0 when Conor Sheary used his speed to get in on the forecheck and pressure Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who went behind his net to play a puck and probably thought he had a lot more time than he did. Sheary stripped him of it and got it to Guentzel in front. He moved it to Crosby, who had the open net. First shot, first goal.
* Their second goal came at an even more crucial time. The Jackets had just evened the score 1-1 when Crosby and Guentzel went down the ice on a 2-on-1 rush. Crosby slid it over to Guentzel, who put it in the back of the net just 51 seconds after Brandon Saad had done the same at the other end. They couldn't have asked for a better response. The guys have been talking a lot about momentum swings in games. Crosby told me yesterday that when they feel like the game is going Columbus' way, they have to find ways to get the momentum back. And that's exactly what they did.
* What impressed me the most about that line tonight was how quick they passed and shot the puck. It was like watching a beautiful game of hot potato. It's truly like they are reading each other's minds with how they know where each other is at all times. And when a shooting opportunity opens up, the player with the puck on his stick doesn't hesitate to put it on net. As Sullivan said, when they're in the offensive zone they're as dangerous a line as there is in the game. they're the most dangerous line in the NHL.
* The Pens decisively won the special teams battle. They scored on the power play and for a second straight game, they did a great job of staying disciplined, taking just two penalties. And both times, they produced penalty kills that had the crowd on their feet and roaring. Guys were sacrificing the body, blocking shot after shot and down at the other end Carter Rowney created one glorious shorthanded chance.
* I loved Rowney's game tonight. He played with a physical edge I haven't seen from him before, and there was one shift where he was a one-man wrecking crew. He sent a Jacket flying on one blue line and then sent another one to the ice on the other blue line. Needless to say, that got the crowd to its feet. Overall, his line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnhackl was solid. They had a lot of offensive zone time, had some good momentum and finished their checks. And as Sullivan said, Rowney led in that regard.
* The Pens burned the Jackets with their speed a number of times tonight. Their transition game was terrific. It resulted in a number of odd-man rushes for the Pens. That continued all game long, even when the Pens had a lead in the third. They didn't sit back. They kept using their speed to get up the ice and create scoring chances, and that's exactly how they need to play when they have the edge on the scoreboard.
* We've been talking a lot about Columbus' forecheck, but I thought the Pens were dominant in that regard tonight. Sheary's forecheck on Bobrovsky resulted in a goal, while Nick Bonino created a couple of extended offensive zone shifts for his line with his ability to get in and separate players from the puck. I was very impressed with his game.