Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 4-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena.
* The Pens look like they've turned a corner from their 10-game slump. It's still too early to say they're a different team. But they certainly look different. They're faster, smarter, more disciplined and harder to play against. This is the Pens team that was advertised at the start of the season. Now, the challenge is to sustain it.
* Most of the headlines from tonight's game will be regarding Jake Guentzel scoring thrice for his first career (regular season) hat trick. And deservedly so. Guentzel has been the recipient of numerous scoring chances of the high-quality variety. But he had failed to finish, and it was frustrating the young winger. But tonight, it was all good as he connected once, twice, three times.
More on Guentzel getting tricky here.
* Guentzel's third goal of the night was his most impressive as he won a net-front battle against Ryan Murray and earned the tally with fight and battle. But his first two were the result of two ridiculous setups by captain Sidney Crosby.
On the first, Crosby collected the puck at the goal line before doing a blind, backhand, spin-o-rama pass through the stick of a Blue Jacket and right to Guentzel's tape in the slot. On the second, Crosby took a pass at the blue line and powered around Markus Nutivaara (leaving the defenseman face first on the ice) before another backhand dish through traffic to Guentzel in the slot.
* Forward Tanner Pearson is really rolling for the Pens. He scored his third goal in the past four games for Pittsburgh after burying a rebound on a faceoff win in the offensive zone. Pearson has four points (3G-1A) in his last four games. The trade is starting to look better and better as the year goes on.
* Pearson would have had another point (assist) as it appeared Phil Kessel had scored at the buzzer of the second period to give Pittsburgh a 5-2 lead. But after Columbus challenged the play for offside, the goal was waved off. However, I do love the Pens pressing to score even as time was running out instead of coasting to the third period with a two-goal lead. The Pens need that mentality of continuing to attack. Though it didn't work out on this play, it will serve them well in the future.
* The Pens have only taken one penalty in the last two games. Games are a lot easier to win when you play with discipline and aren't killing penalties.