Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers…
* Mike Sullivan does such an incredible job of managing his team. He seems to always know exactly what to do to get his team going when they need a spark, and a perfect example of that in this game was how he handled his fourth line. When asked the other day about Ryan Reaves' lack of ice time - he played a season-low 3:20 against the Rangers - Sullivan said it had nothing to do with his play. He said a lot of it had to do with chasing games, and he was hopeful they could get him more consistent minutes moving forward.
Tonight, even with the Pens going down 2-0 in the first period, Sullivan opted to give Reaves' line with Carter Rowney and Tom Kuhnhackl consistent shifts. They were certainly deserving, as they were the one line that was generating offensive-zone time, which Sullivan had said would be key against the Panthers. They continued to create momentum and ended up scoring the tying goal in the second period off a play where all three guys played a part.
* Another change Sullivan made was switching Sidney Crosby and Greg McKegg. Crosby skated with the Swedes, while McKegg played with the Kids. It wasn't necessarily a knock on anyone's play; Sullivan just said they didn't like how the game was going and felt they needed to make a switch. I thought Conor Sheary was flying all night regardless of who he was playing with, and he really turned on the jets in the final minutes of regulation to score the game-winner in the waning seconds of a man-advantage. Olli Maatta set him up with a perfect pass, extending his career-long point streak to 6 games (1G-6A).
* The Pens' power play was absolutely lethal tonight, going 3-for-4 on the night. The coaching staff mixed and matched personnel a lot during the first few games of the season, but have since settled into a tried-and true first unit with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang. There's just so much familiarity with those guys and it showed with the amount of zone time they had and how they worked with each other. The Pens now have a power-play goal in a season high 5 straight games.
It took Malkin just 7 seconds to convert the first one. It took longer on the second one, which ended up being incredibly entertaining. Hornqvist was creating absolute chaos out there, which had us laughing up here in the press box with how he was throwing his body around. Malkin was feeling the one-timer, and was able to tee off about four or five of them. He While Malkin definitely had a shoot-first mentality, he didn't force it and ended up finding Crosby at the front of the net for a perfect re-direct.
Overall, the power play was the biggest reason the Pens entered the second period down 2-0 and came out of it up 3-2. You almost had to feel for Roberto Luongo, who actually had a really strong game and made some dazzling saves, but eventually was overwhelmed by the talent level of that first unit.
* The Pens didn't get off to a strong start, and neither did their goaltender. While didn't help that the Pens were allowing the Panthers to generate a number of Grade-A chances early, I think it's safe to say Matt Murray would have liked their second goal back. But credit to him, he battled through and ended up making a lot of timely saves, especially as the Panthers pressed toward the end of the second and late in the third. The entire team really settled in as the game went along and responded the right way to a challenging first few minutes.
The other day, Murray said he had been good but not great, and that as a team they know they're not where they want to be but they're finding ways to win even though they're not at their best. That was certainly the case for everyone tonight.