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Snap Shots: Pens 5, Panthers 1

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday.

Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday.

* The Pens got off to another good start in this game, scoring twice in the first 3:03 of play. And while they didn't relinquish that lead like they did in their last game, a 5-3 loss to Chicago on Sunday, they didn't exactly run away with the game either.

It felt similar to Pittsburgh's 7-2 win over the Rangers on Jan. 2 in the sense that it maybe wasn't the Pens' best effort, but they did a better job of executing. Give the Panthers credit - they never quit in this game despite going down early. As Mike Sullivan said this morning, the Panthers are a real good team that has size, skill and skating ability, and they showed it tonight, along with some feistiness that resulted in a couple of fights.

As Bryan Rust told me after the game, "I kind of thought it was an ugly game back and forth. I thought there were a lot of good chances both ways. I think we got to be happy that we came away with a good win. 'Murr' (Matt Murray) bailed us out a lot. We've got to learn from that and get better."

* If it wasn't for Murray, the result could have been much different. He was absolutely phenomenal between the pipes as the Panthers created a ton of high-quality scoring chances, including a shorthanded breakaway from Colton Sceviour and a point-blank chance from Aleksander Barkov alone at the net. He was completely locked in tonight, in every aspect, just like he has been ever since returning to the lineup on Dec. 15.

He has compiled a record of 8-0 since then, becoming the fourth different goaltender in Pens franchise history to record a personal win streak of eight or more games and first since Marc-Andre Fleury from Feb. 21-March 17, 2012 (9-0-0).

* Another huge factor in the game was the penalty kill. The Jacques Squad had quite the night, getting shorthanded tallies from Rust and Riley Sheahan while killing off all four of Florida's opportunities. It was the first time the Pens have scored multiple shorthanded goals in the same game since Nick Bonino and Tom Kuhnhackl both tallied on March 29, 2016 vs. Buffalo.

"I think we defended up ice really well and we disrupted their breakout," Rust said. "We caught them in some situations where we could take advantage."

They were motivated to get back on track after the Blackhawks scored once on the power play and two goals right after a couple of penalties expired.

"We didn't really do the job we wanted to last game," Rust said. "Technically they only scored one on the power play but it was basically three. We were definitely looking to be a little bit better."

* Rust's goal was his second of the game, giving him 11 on the season. It's kind of crazy now to think that he had just one goal through his first 29 games. He was the recipient of some nice feeds on both goals, and credit to him for making some nice moves to finish the plays.

"I've been the product of some real good plays," Rust said. "Just try and keep my feet moving, get to open space and guys are finding me. I'm able to put it in."

* The Pens lost Patric Hornqvist in the first period after a deflected puck caught him up high. He was able to skate straight to the bench and head down the runway, but did not return. Hornqvist collected an assist on Tanner Pearson's opening goal before going down. Zach Aston-Reese also got injured after a fight with Sceviour. Sullivan had no update on either player atfer the game, but said his sense is that Aston-Reese will be out for "a little while."

* This marked the Pens' last home game for quite a while. They leave on Wednesday for a five-game road trip through California, Arizona and Las Vegas and won't play again in Pittsburgh until Jan. 28 against New Jersey. They leave town having finished on a good note, with nine wins in their last 10 games.

"Just glad we got the two points. It's our last home game for a while so it's nice way to start off this road trip we're going on," Murray said.

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