Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 5-2 win over Tampa Bay…
In tonight's game notes, there was a section titled "Big Night Ahead?" in regards to Evgeni Malkin. It noted that Malkin was held scoreless Wednesday in Chicago for just the second time in eight games, which could leave him primed for a big night as he has always enjoyed playing against Tampa Bay. That turned out to be the case, as Malkin scored twice in the game and added an assist to help the Pens snap their two-game losing streak. It was a completely dominant night for the Pens center.
I liked that both of Malkin's goals came because he didn't hesitate to shoot. Tampa Bay's defensemen are all big men with long reaches - three of them are over 6-foot-5! - and they take away a lot of time and space. Instead of trying to stickhandle around them, sometimes the best option is just to put the puck on net. That's what Malkin did, and it resulted in two goals.
Tonight marked Mark Streit's Pens debut, and the defenseman was really solid. We've seen a lot of him over the years as he had spent the last seven-plus seasons in Pittsburgh's division, and he was exactly as advertised. As Sidney Crosby said this morning, Streit makes a good first pass and is a good skater, and that showed. Not only did he get the puck up quickly, he also got himself up the ice quickly as well. That resulted in a couple of glorious scoring chances for him, and he put one in the back of the net when Crosby found him wide open at the side of the net on a delayed penalty call.
Heading into this game, the Pens had been awarded just one power play over their last two games. So when they were given a long-awaited opportunity 8:39 into the second period, they wasted no time taking advantage of it as it took Malkin just six seconds to find the back of the net. Overall, they went 2-for-3 on the power play and looked sharp despite the lack of chances as of late.
While the Pens did give up a power-play goal of their own, overall the penalty killers did a tremendous job against a red-hot power play that had five goals in their last three games heading in. They were particularly strong early and late in the game, coming up with a particularly crucial kill late in the third.
The Pens created a ton of chances during their last two games, but struggled to get them to fall in the back-to-back losses at Dallas and Chicago. Crosby told me before the game that while it's easy to start worrying, they felt they had done a lot of good things offensively and had to build on that. They did that tonight, as not only did they score five goals, they hit countless posts throughout the night. Good to see them sticking with it and getting rewarded.
It was fantastic to see Conor Sheary back in the lineup. Even though the winger had missed the last 13 games with an upper-body injury, it didn't look like he was missing a step at all as he played like he had been shot out of a cannon. His speed creates so much for his linemates, and it was fun to see him pick up where he'd left off with Crosby.