Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 4-1 win over Columbus…
* There's a 99 percent chance these teams are going to meet in the First Round of the playoffs, so this was a meaningful game for a number of reasons. And the Pens set the tone with their performance tonight. Despite having a depleted lineup missing a number of key players, the Pens came out with an emphatic win over their rival. You couldn't ask for much more from them tonight. Mike Sullivan said the most important thing was understanding who they are and how they had to play to give them the best chance of winning, and they did that. They played a quick game, from their skating to how they moved the puck, and from top to bottom, everyone in the lineup just went out and did their job.
* The teams are battling for home ice, which the Pens definitely want as it's been an advantage for them all season long. They finished with 31 home wins. They had 66 home points, the second-most in franchise history. They have the most home goals in the NHL by quite a margin. They couldn't have ended their slate of games at PPG Paints Arena on a better note on Fan Appreciation Night.
* The Jackets play a nasty, physical style and do everything they can to get opponents off their game. They deployed a number of familiar tactics, including crosschecks and slashes away from the whistle, but credit to the Pens - they didn't let themselves get caught up. That's not to say they weren't involved. While they didn't back down, they made sure not to do anything detrimental. I especially liked how abrasive Josh Archibald was in that regard.
* The Pens did end up losing a couple of guys. Bryan Rust left late in the second period and did not return while Matt Cullen left in the third.
* Carter Rowney's line with Archibald and Scott Wilson has been tremendous for the Pens the last couple of games. Wilson got a big goal on Sunday against Carolina, and Rowney scored one tonight. They're bringing so much more than offense, too. They've been playing with so much energy and have been buzzing in other team's ends. I think they would be a lot for Columbus to handle in a playoff series. I really liked how they played against the Jackets.
* It had been a while since Brian Dumoulin scored a goal in the regular season. His last one came on Dec. 15, 2014, a span of 151 regular-season games. Needless to say, he certainly wasn't going to be picky about how he got one. In the second period, he took a pass from Jake Guentzel and went for the wraparound attempt. The puck bounced off Cam Atkinson's skate and in. Definitely not the prettiest goal, but he'll take it. It almost got taken away after a coach's challenge, but the call on the ice stood.
* Columbus entered this game on a 3-game skid, so their confidence has taken a hit. And the Pens certainly didn't let them gain any back. Apart from a few pushes, the Pens played a sound defensive game. And when they did have breakdowns, Matt Murray was there.