Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 4-3 comeback win over Buffalo…
Judging by the first period, it felt like it was going to be one of those nights where nothing would go right for the Pens. Everything that could go wrong, did. The Pens didn't have enough urgency or intensity; they struggled in their own end and the neutral zone; Matt Murray wasn't coming up with the needed saves; they couldn't get anything to fall at the other end; and they got into penalty trouble, taking three in the first 20 minutes. As a result, the Sabres went into intermission with a 3-0 lead.
Mike Sullivan made some changes after that dismal first to try and get his team going. He put Marc-Andre Fleury in goal and reconfigured his lines, most notably putting Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary with Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel with Evgeni Malkin. And the Pens responded, coming out and dominating the second and third periods.
Fleury was fantastic in relief of Murray. He was tracking the puck and reading and reacting to plays so well. His best moment came right after he took over the net, when he turned aside Evander Kane on a breakaway. The Sabres got a late power play after going down and pressed hard to even the score, but Fleury kept them from finding the back of his net.
Evgeni Malkin and Justin Schultz led the charge for Pittsburgh. Both players had terrific games on Friday against Tampa Bay, and they carried that strong play into today - taking it to another level. Malkin was just so dominant, having the kind of night where he single-handedly kept possession of the puck for long stretches and good things happened when it was on was on his stick. As Fleury said, Malkin was buzzing and when they see him going like that, it makes them confident they can come back. Schultz's offensive instincts were on display as he was active in getting involved and finished with a goal and two assists - including setting up the overtime winner.
Putting Guentzel and Sheary together worked out, as they each scored a goal to turn the 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead. They created a ton of chances all night skating alongside Crosby, and it was great to see them finally get rewarded.