Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 5-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at PPG Paints Arena.
* Special teams played a big role in the outcome of tonight's contest, especially in the first frame to help the Penguins jump out to a 3-0 lead. The Penguins took the first penalty of the game. Rookie goalie Tristan Jarry turned aside four shots on the Bolts' power play, including one that bounced out to the high slot. Bryan Rust flipped the puck past Tampa's Mikhail Sergachev and out-raced Tyler Johnson before placing a shot over Peter Budaj's blocker to give the Penguins the lead. Rust's tally was his second shorthanded goal of the season, and pushed the Penguins team total to four, tied for the league lead. Jarry picked up an assist on the goal, his first career point in the NHL.
The Penguins had a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play to work with late in the first period. It didn't take long for them to take advantage of it. Kris Letang took a shot, breaking his stick, but the puck found its way to Patric Hornqvist in the slot. Hornqvist quickly passed it to Crosby, who sent the puck cross crease to Phil Kessel. He slammed home his 10th goal of the season.
Kessel returned the favor just one minute and 24 seconds later, rifling a pass that found Crosby's stick for a tip-in behind Budaj to put the Penguins up 3-0 after the first 20 minutes.
* With both teams playing on Friday, tonight served as the battle of the backups in which Jarry prevailed. The Penguins' 22-year-old netminder picked up the first win of his career in his first career start at home. Jarry turned aside 33 of 35 shots and stood tall on numerous occasions.
Overall, Jarry looked composed and sound in net, compiling a handful of noteworthy saves throughout the evening. He stoned Steven Stamkos on a breakaway in the first period, making a sprawling save to keep the game scoreless early. Another quality chance came off the stick of Nikita Kucherov. A slapshot from the point missed the net and bounced off the endboards behind the net and right onto Kucherov's stick. One of the most lethal snipers in the NHL, Kucherov wasted no time getting a shot off, but Jarry tracked the puck perfectly and slid over to the post to deny the NHL's current leader in goals from adding one more to his total. Jarry denied Kucherov on another attempt in the third period, a one-timer from the circle with the Penguins down a man. Jarry helped the Penguins penalty kill go 5-for-6 tonight. Budaj had 29 saves for the Lightning.
* Crosby played his 807th career NHL game tonight, pushing him ahead of Jaromir Jagr for second all-time in Penguins history. After Crosby scored on Friday, he looked extremely determined to get on the scoresheet again tonight from the get go. Crosby put on display his excellent edge control and puck protection skills to dominate board play against Tampa Bay's defensemen in the offensive zone throughout the game. Crosby extended plays and pressure in the offensive zone at even strength, but it was on the power play where he did most of his damage tonight.
He drew Paquette's high-stick double minor, and picked up an assist on the ensuing power play. Crosby added two goals with the man-advantage, the first on the feed from Kessel. The second came after Crosby received the puck in the circle on a 5-on-3 as he took advantage of the space available. Crosby surveyed the ice for a pass, before quickly turning and firing a shot far side past Budaj. The Penguins captain has now collected points in five of the last six games, registering four goals and five assists over that span.
* Phil Kessel once again was a major contributor on the scoresheet. Kessel finished with two goals and four points on the night. Head coach Mike Sullivan called this "hands down" the best regular-season stretch of Kessel's tenure as a Penguin.
In the second period, Kessel showed one of the attributes of his game that makes him so dangerous. After a turnover in the defensive zone, Kessel fled the zone and was found down the wing by Riley Sheahan. Rushing down the wing, Kessel unleashed a wrist shot from the circle, finding twine far side over Budaj's blocker. Kessel's team-leading 11th goal of the season gave him his first four-point outing of the season.
* The Penguins played the Lightning twice in October, but tonight's contest was the first matchup at PPG Paints Arena between the two teams in the final game of their season series. With that marked the return of Chris Kunitz to Pittsburgh, who spent eight-plus seasons with the organization, winning three Stanley Cups.