Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 6-4 win over New Jersey…
This wasn't the prettiest performance, but at the end of the day, the Pens got the job done despite all of the injuries they're dealing with. To a man, the Pens know none of them played their best - and they said as much after the game - but they ended up with a huge two points in the standings.
Injuries mean opportunities for other players to step up. And Carter Rowney did so in a big way tonight. The rookie winger scored his first NHL goal, which stood as the game-winner, and it was a beauty. Tom Kuhnhackl found him at the side of the net, where he waited out Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid and managed to shoot it in from a sharp angle. Rowney really made the most of limited ice time, as he added an assist and went 4-1 on faceoffs.
On St. Patrick's Day, Phil Kessel finally had a little luck. The winger snapped a lengthy goalless streak at 13 games when he found the back of the net in the first period to give him 23 on the year. And he had another golden opportunity late in the second, when he was hooked by former teammate Ben Lovejoy on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. And while Kinkaid came up with a big save, it's a big positive to see Kessel getting chances. A little change did him good as Mike Sullivan switched things up and put Kessel on the left side, and they hope it will get him going on a consistent basis moving forward.
At first, it felt like Sidney Crosby wouldn't have the luck of the Irish on his side. Early in the game, he attempted four slapshots from the right circle and was stopped on the first three chances. Fourth time was the charm, as he finally converted a chance from there. He ended up getting an empty-netter to give him two on the night and tie him for the NHL goal-scoring lead.
His first goal, by the way, came on the power play. Granted, it was a during a two-man advantage for a full two minutes. But all the same, it was good to see it come to life after a lifeless performance on Wednesday in Philadelphia, especially with Evgeni Malkin out for tonight's game with an upper-body injury.
Speaking of injuries, Crosby talked this morning about how they needed to find ways to play well and get points despite having such a depleted lineup. And the captain was one of the guys who stepped up and led in that regard. He was dominant in the game, a performance the Pens needed considering how many guys are out. Overall, his line with Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel created so much starting with their first shift. It's been a blast to watch that trio gel together and be such a force for the Pens.