Thoughts and observations from the Pens' 4-1 win against the Predators in Game Two at PPG Paints Arena.
* After that weird, bizarre Game 1, Game 2 felt like a regular, normal playoff game. After going 37 minutes without a shot in Game 1 and getting just 12 total, the Pens matched that output in the first period and ended up with 27 on the night. Overall, both teams just looked so much more engaged and energetic, and it made for much better hockey.
* Speaking of shots, Matt Murray faced a lot of those in the first two periods - seeing 32. The Preds applied extra pressure in the final minutes of the first and carried that into the opening half of the second, but Murray was up to the challenge. He made a lot of huge saves, including a split glove stop on a point shot from Roman Josi. "Excellent" and "Fantastic" were terms his appreciative teammates used in the locker room after to describe his play. Murray kept his team in the game and allowed them to break it wide open in the third.
* And what a third it was. The Pens thought they had a strong second half of the 2nd and had a lot of confidence entering the 3rd. It showed right away as the Pens set a team record for the fastest playoff goal scored in a period when Jake Guentzel buried Bryan Rust's pass-off-pads. Conor Sheary said that goal gave them a ton of momentum and that they thrived off it. From there, the Pens scored three times in a 3:18 span to chase Pekka Rinne and take a lead they would not give up. They created several odd-man rushes while allowing the Preds just six shots on net.
* Opportunism is definitely something that carried over from Game 1 to Game 2 for the Pens. In both games, they needed just a few minutes to score goals in bunches.
* This wasn't a good night for the power play on the scoresheet, as they went 0-for-7 on the night. Nashville's penalty killers were aggressive, particularly on the three players at the top - Phil Kessel, Justin Schultz and Evgeni Malkin. They put those guys under pressure, forced them into turnovers and made clears the length of the ice. Malkin didn't have a lot of answers after the game, telling me they need to watch the video and regroup.
* That all being said, the Pens always say that even if they don't score on the power play, they want to at least generate momentum. And I thought they did do that tonight, especially the second unit. They seemed to have better luck when it came to skating and moving and holding onto the puck, and got rewarded in the second when Guentzel picked up a rebound and placed it between Rinne's arm and his body.
* The penalty kill responded after allowing two goals against in Game 1. They thwarted all four opportunities from Nashville, including a 5-on-3 for two full minutes in the first period. Nick Bonino sacrificed his body to get in front of a shot from P.K. Subban that left him hobbled, but that didn't stop him from attempting to get in front of another. Thankfully, the whistle blew as Ian Cole drew a call of his own (the first of three) with 1:02 left. Bonino had to be helped off the ice, but returned at the start of the second. He was an inspiration to the team along with the other guys who sacrificed their bodies to make big blocks.
* Guentzel ended up getting two on the night to give him 12 goals and 19 points this postseason. His 12 tallies rank second all-time for goals by a rookie in a single postseason while his 19 points rank first among U.S.-born rookies in NHL history.
* Malkin scored to add to his league-leading 26 playoff points (9G-17A). His goal was the Pens' fourth and final, coming when Kessel set him up on a 2-on-1 rush, and he now has six points (3G-3A) in his last five games. Malkin has been a monster, and tonight he played with a ton of emotion. Late in the game, he tussled with Subban behind the Preds net to roaring chants of "GENO! GENO!" in the crowd, which included his mom and dad, who are here from Russia. At home was son Nikita, who turned a year old today. Malkin was happy to get him the win, telling me, "It's a small present for him for sure. I thought about that before the game."