Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 1.
* As Bryan Rust said the other day, "They're a good team, we've been a good team, so I think it's going to be a fun series." And while that may be a short but sweet summation, it's a completely accurate one. These two teams did not disappoint. Both clubs traded chances and there was a tremendous flow to the game as both teams pushed the pace with hardly any whistles. It just felt like hockey at its best. And it was awesome.
* This game completely broke open in the third period. Pens head coach Mike Sullivan and his players talk so much about momentum swings within games, how important it is to stay even-keeled throughout them, and to seize it and hold onto it when they can. The Pens did exactly that. After the Caps took a 2-0 lead in the first shift of the final frame, the Pens responded and showed the resilience that has become so ingrained in their identity. It started when Patric Hornqvist netted a huge goal that jump-started the Pens, and continued with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel also getting on the board -all in less than a five-minute span - to turn that deficit into a lead they would not relinquish.
* Matt Murray was a huge reason that was able to stay a lead. "I thought he was locked in all night long," Sullivan said. "He made some big saves for us, especially when they were pressing down the stretch there the last six or seven minutes of the third period." Not only were his saves clutch and timely, a lot of them were also highlight-reel stops. Down at the other end, Braden Holtby came up with some equally impressive saves and for a while, it felt like the Pens just weren't going to figure out how to beat him despite the quality of their scoring chances and inability to finish. But they stuck with it and eventually got rewarded.
* Hornqvist has played with Guentzel and Crosby for the last two games since returning to the lineup from an upper-body injury in Game 6, and they've been putting the puck in the back of the net in bunches. They didn't have the starts they wanted to the first or the third periods, as the Caps scored on the opening shift of both frames with those three on the ice. But they put those shifts behind them and put the team on their back in the third period for a huge third-period comeback win on the road against a really good team in the playoffs.
* With Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin both out, Dominik Simon moved up to play on a line with Riley Sheahan and Phil Kessel. He talked on Wednesday about how he had to take advantage of it. I thought he did. Simon had two of the Pens' best chances of the night, one off a feed from Kessel and one off a feed from Sheahan. And while he wasn't able to convert either one, it's a huge positive that he's creating them. He should gain plenty of confidence from his performance tonight.
* Washington's power play was red-hot in the First Round, scoring at least once in all six games. The best way to stop a power play like that is to keep it from going over the boards, and the Pens did just that in this game. Their discipline was impressive, as they weren't whistled for a penalty in the first two periods and only allowed the Caps 28 seconds with the extra man in the third.