Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 5-4 loss against Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena.
* There's no doubt that anytime these two teams get together it makes for an entertaining game. That was the case again in tonight's contest - which brings back images of hockey from the 1980s: high skill, fast pace, back-and-forth rushes, defense optional, anything can happen.
There were a lot of crazy plays and the game was a seesaw battle. You didn't know which team would end up winning, all you knew was there would be a lot of goals scored and a lot of quality saves from the goaltenders.
The Pens' decision-making with the puck helped feed into Tampa Bay's speed. Even head coach Mike Sullivan tried to get them to play more disciplined in an effort to slow down the pace of the game. But the Pens' effort was certainly there. They battled hard all the way until the final buzzer. They just ran out of clock.
* One play that encapsulated the whole game was Tampa Bay's fifth goal late in the second period. As a Lightning penalty on Slater Koekkoek expired, he stepped out of the box right as Pens defenseman Kris Letang was skating with the puck by the box with his head turned. The two collided and the Bolts ended up with a 3-on-1. The trio played catch for an eternity until Koekkeok tallied his second of the night.
It was just that kind of night.
* Another play that summarized the game was after goalie Antti Niemi made a save on a breakaway, defenseman Chad Ruhwedel collected the puck and flipped it ahead to Conor Sheary for a Pittsburgh breakaway. Sheary went top corner for his first goal of the season. Then Sheary lost an edge while celebrating and fell into the end boards. At least he was all smiles about it.
But seriously, it was that kind of night.
* The Pens certainly got their goals in the contest, and they came from some of the kids: Jake Guentzel, Sheary and Bryan Rust.
* Guentzel showed on his goal what type of net-front presence he can be. No, he isn't built the way Patric Hornqvist is, nor does he play the role the same. Instead of being a disruptor, crashing, burning and making life miserable for opposing goaltenders, Guentzel plays the position more for screens and tips. And his creative tip led to a goal. He's more built as a skill player at the crease, and maybe even more dangerous than Hornqvist.
* The players had to know coming into the contest that it would play out like this with a lot of goals and the netminders being hung out to dry. That was the case for both ends, but more so for Niemi, who was under fire nonstop for 60 minutes.
All in all, I think Niemi handled himself well. Of the five goals against, I would say that four cannot be faulted on Niemi. On top of that, he made several spectacular saves, including on two breakaways,
Niemi certainly didn't want to give up five goals regardless of blame. But he's been put in tough spots in his first two starts as a Penguin, and tonight he handled the pressure much better.
* The Pens continue to tweak their power play. Defenseman Justin Schultz took over the point spot with the top unit while Hornqvist provided the net-front.
* It's still bizarre to see Chris Kunitz in different colors. Not only did he become synonymous with the Penguins during his 9 seasons with the club, but he's very much a Pittsburgher through and through. In fact, his family plans on moving back to Pittsburgh following his retirement - which hopefully won't be anytime soon.
Kunitz picked up an assist on Tampa Bay's first goal, notching a point against his old team. He also threw a hard hit into Ruhwedel, sending him into the bench. Kunitz has always been a great guy to deal with, and it was nice to see him chipping in - even if it was for the bad guys.