Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 3-1 win over Arizona on Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena…
- When talking about Justin Schultz this morning, Mike Sullivan said he felt the defenseman could have a significant impact in his return to the lineup after missing six games with a concussion. Not only was it significant; it was immediate, as he scored on his first shift. He recognized an opportunity to jump up into the play, and ended up receiving a pass from Phil Kessel on the goal line. Despite the sharp angle, he shot anyway, and it got past Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta. Schultz ended up playing over 20 minutes in the game, including 5:27 on the power play, as he saw reps on the first power-play unit.
- It was a strong start for the Penguins, who scored twice in the first 3:07 of play. The Coyotes were coming off an overtime loss to Washington the night before, and the fatigue was apparent. The Penguins sensed that, and seized their opportunity. The best part about both goals was that they each came during 5-on-5 play. As a team, the Penguins had been struggling to score in that situation, as they had just two even-strength goals during their recent five-game road trip. "Finally," Evgeni Malkin said. "Bad luck the last couple games."
- As the Penguins got going at even-strength, they slowed down on the power play. The Coyotes are usually a disciplined team, but got into penalty trouble tonight, getting whistled for six total. Their penalty kill was ranked 29th in the league, and with how the Penguins' 2nd-ranked power play had been producing, it seemed like Pittsburgh would dominate that matchup. Not so much. A big reason for their success had been their work ethic, playing with energy and enthusiasm. Tonight, they seemed lethargic, like they were moving in slow motion. That being said, given enough chances, a group this talented will eventually break through. And they did, with Kessel scoring on the final try.
- Sullivan reunited Malkin and Kessel for the game, and put Jake Guentzel on their wing. I've always liked the chemistry those three had dating back to Guentzel's debut last November, and it was fun to see them pick it right back up, The move reaped rewards, as that line was on the ice for the first two goals. Malkin said they were excited to play together, and that they understood each other well. Malkin and Kessel each finished with a goal and two assists, and while Guentzel was held off the scoresheet, it's only a matter of time before he breaks the schneid.
- It was an underrated performance from Matt Murray. The Coyotes looked overwhelmed at the beginning of the game, getting outscored and outshot by a wide margin, but they started to push back. And they created some quality chances, with most of them coming point blank from the top of the crease. Murray did a good job of coming up with clutch and timely saves throughout the game, even after stretches of inaction. Dating back to last year, including the playoffs, Murray is on a 12-0-1 unbeaten stretch at PPG Paints Arena.
- Tonight marked Rick Tocchet's first game back in Pittsburgh since being named head coach of the Coyotes. The team played a tribute video with highlights of him both as a player and as a coach, and once it was done, both teams stood up and tapped their sticks in recognition as Tocchet waved to the crowd. Great moment for a great man.