Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 5-2 win over the New York Rangers...
* The Pens just keep rolling. They've now won two straight coming out of the bye week, and four in a row to equal their season-long streak set Nov. 25-Dec. 2. They're finally stringing some wins together again, and it couldn't be coming at a better time. This was an especially huge four-point game, as they and the Rangers were in the final two Wild Card playoff spots with 49 points each entering the game.
* This was by far Dominik Simon's best game in black and gold. A lot of the buzz had been centered around his linemates Sidney Crosby and Daniel Sprong since the trio was put together, but tonight he was the star. He was knocking on the door all night, and busted it down in the second period with the first goal of his NHL career off a rebound. Prior to that, he had two terrific chances earlier in the game, so third time was the charm for the rookie winger. He was in and around the net all evening, and got rewarded.
* Phil the Thrill can REALLY fire the pill. Just 1:15 after Simon scored, he received the puck and absolutely ripped a shot past Henrik Lundqvist that went in and out of the net so fast that if you blinked, you missed it. It was his 20th goal of the season and 700th point of his NHL career.
* The last time the Pens played the Rangers, I talked to Carl Hagelin about how to beat his former teammate and friend Lundqvist. He laughed and said, "well, I think he doesn't like when (Patric) Hornqvist is around the crease, first of all." He went on to say that it would be important for them to get shots and try to crash the net as much as possible because he plays pretty deep in his net.
The two Swedes did that and combined for the Pens' first goal against their fellow countryman, while the rest of the Pens followed suit. They were putting pucks and bodies at the net all night and noticeably perturbed Lundqvist, which is exactly what you want. He ended up facing 47 shots total.
* The Pens were down 2-1 heading into the first intermission, but I thought they played a good opening period. It was just one of those situations where the Rangers got some good luck. They capitalized on a miscommunication at their own blue line between Evgeni Malkin and Brian Dumoulin, and Michael Grabner ended up scoring on a breakaway. Brendan Smith then snuck one past Tristan Jarry that he'd want back. Other than that, the Pens played a strong period and did a good job of dealing with the Rangers' speed and aggressiveness on the forecheck while creating chances offensively.
* Tonight we saw something that you don't see every day - maybe ever. In the second period, Ryan Reaves trucked Marc Staal by the Rangers bench with a monstrous hit. Shortly after, he was the recipient of a monstrous hit from Smith. Jamie Oleksiak immediately challenged Smith to fight, and promptly KO'ed him. Reaves is usually the one defending his teammates, so it was pretty cool to see someone sticking up for him.