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Snap Shots: Penguins 4, Lightning 2

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Thoughts, musings, and observations from the Pens' 4-2 win against the Lightning at PPG Paints Arena.

* After a lackluster effort in their 6-3 loss to New Jersey on Monday, the players got together after their team meeting on Tuesday. They wanted to make sure everybody understood the importance of bringing their best every single night, regardless of their opponent's rank in the standings.

"Every time you have a performance like that you want to make sure your team responds the right way," Kris Letang said. "After a normal loss I don't think we have a meeting, but after a loss that important against a team that's lower in the standings, we needed to answer and I think it was to make sure everybody was ready to go."

And they most certainly were. The Pens played with a competitive spirit that was missing on Monday, outworking their opponent in what was overall a pretty dominant performance. 

"As a team we all showed up," Letang said. "We were really invested right from the get-go."

* That was exemplified by Evgeni Malkin. It has been a frustrating stretch for the Penguins center, who has been candid about having a crisis of confidence - even experimenting with different skates, sticks and gloves to try and break out of his slump. Though he knew the gear wasn't the problem - as he put it, "The problem is only in my head."

It appears that he's figuring it out, as Malkin looked like himself for the first time in a long time. He had some dominant stretches and finished with two assists - the first being the 600th of his career - but more importantly, he played with an energy and a passion that has been missing from his game. He was as invested as we've seen him, even dropping the gloves with Steven Stamkos and earning a fighting major in the third period.

"That's Geno's best game in a while," Pens head coach Mike Sullivan said. "He was on the puck. You noticed him. He was a presence every shift. When he's engaged like that emotionally, I think that's when he's at his best."

* Sullivan has been talking a lot lately about his team's identity and how it's still a work in progress. He has preached about how it takes more to win than just being a great offensive team, and that they can't score their way to championships. 

This game was a big step in the right direction in terms of playing the right way and establishing that identity. The Pens showed that offensive firepower by scoring three times on their first five shots while doing a good job of defending. 

And while they were outshot 16-5 in the opening frame, the players felt the shot clock wasn't necessarily indicative of the chances against. Overall, they limited the Lightning's opportunities and were able to break out of their end quickly and get up the ice. 

* The NHL plans to deploy a Puck and Player Tracking system for games next season. It's too bad they didn't have that technology for tonight for a shift by Phil Kessel during 4-on-4 play in the second period. Kessel was skating in circles across all three zones before turning up the ice and finally giving the puck up to Letang. The defenseman converted the feed for his 108th career goal, tying the franchise record set by Paul Coffey. 

"It's pretty surreal," Letang said. "Growing up, watching him, never thought I would have my name next to his. Still surreal."

* With Derick Brassard out with an upper-body injury, Teddy Blueger made his NHL debut centering Riley Sheahan and Garrett Wilson. His first shift was a success, earning a plus-1 as his linemates connected for the game's opening goal.

"It was definitely a golden first shift," Blueger said. "It was a good start there and I felt like we just got on the ice and scored, that was nice to be a part of for sure."

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