Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 5-1 win over Buffalo…
* The Pens swept their home-and-home with Buffalo, outscoring them 9-1 in both games. This was a big opportunity to grab four points from the struggling Sabres, and the Pens made the most of it. The Pens knew that Buffalo would want to respond from an effort their head coach called "embarrassing" last night, and they were able to negate that by drawing penalties early. The Sabres spent most of the first period in the box, and while the Pens weren't able to convert, they did steal the momentum. Pittsburgh broke the game open in the final 40 minutes.
* Usually teams split their goaltenders in back-to-back sets, but tonight, the Pens opted to go back to Tristan Jarry. "We really liked his game last night," head coach Mike Sullivan said before the game. "He hasn't played a lot of games. We think he's got plenty of energy. We're hoping he can build on the effort he had last night." He certainly did that, making 32 saves Jarry played with confidence and continued to do a tremendous job of tracking pucks through traffic, particularly on Buffalo's power plays.
* This marked Evgeni Malkin's second game back after missing four games with an upper-body injury, and he had his legs under him right away. He had a couple of chances on one of his first shifts and the Pens ended up drawing a call. Malkin went on to open the scoring late in the first period on a 2-on-1. What I liked about it is that he didn't try and force a pass to Phil Kessel, as those two have been guilty of that a lot this year. Malkin said afterward that he thought of going to him, but instead just opted to shoot and was rewarded for it.
* Entering tonight, Carl Hagelin hadn't scored in his last 19 games, but Sullivan had been pleased with the winger's play as of late. Sullivan said that he was noticeable with his skating ability, getting in and around the puck and forcing turnovers. He'd been putting the puck on net, with a shot on goal in each of his last 15 games, but it just hadn't been going in. That changed tonight, as Hagelin scored a big goal early in the second period to give the Pens a 2-0 lead. I was impressed with the patience he displayed as he moved out from behind the net with Chad Johnson down and out. He made sure that he lifted it over the goalie's outstretched pad. When a guy hasn't scored in a while it would be tempting to just get rid of it, but Hagelin made sure to wait.
* The usual suspects were all over the scoresheet - Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist and Phil Kessel - but seeing guys like Hagelin and Tom Kuhnhackl on Friday find the back of the net is a huge for a team who had been lacking production from their bottom-six. The Pens are starting to get scoring from all four lines and they're starting to score in all situations. "Our power play has been really good this year, but we have to get more consistent goal scoring over the whole lineup," Hornqvist said. "Now we got that balance in the lineup and that's a key for success."
* Hornqvist and Crosby combined to continue their point streaks. Late in the second period, Crosby stickhandled beautifully around the Sabres defense to set up Hornqvist for a layup. Hornqvist returned the favor late in the third period for an empty-net goal. Crosby now has six goals and 13 points in his last six games while Hornqvist has three goals and six points in his last five.