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Zucker "flying" in two-goal performance

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Jason Zucker admitted that his Penguins debut in Tuesday's 2-1 overtime loss to Tampa Bay at PPG Paints Arena was a bit of a whirlwind after being traded to Pittsburgh from Minnesota less than 24 hours earlier.

"I think it will be better next game," he said.

That was quite the understatement, as the 28-year-old forward scored twice to power the Penguins to a 4-1 win over Montreal on Friday at PPG Paints Arena.

"It's one more day with these guys," Zucker said. "It's one more day preparing for a game. It's great to have that practice (Thursday). Trying to learn the system a little bit more and just try to learn these guys and the way they play hockey. It'll be a learning curve still, but I'm excited about how the game went tonight.

What made it even more special was that Zucker's wife Carly and two of their children, son Hendrix and daughter Stella (daughter Sophia had to stay back home in Minnesota for this trip) were in attendance to watch him play with his new team in person for the first time.

"No matter how that game went tonight, it meant a lot for me to have them here," Zucker said. "It was great to see my kids today, see my wife today. It was just an exciting day for me to see them and have them here."

Tweet from @penguins: Zucker: "Thank you guys for welcoming us! Again, as a family, we're very excited to be here in Pittsburgh."

Zucker said he felt like he was overthinking when it came to some of the Penguins' system aspects on Tuesday, but that he wanted to focus on using his speed and skating ability to drive to the net and create plays moving forward. 

And that's exactly what Zucker did on his 15th and 16th goals of the season.

On his first goal, Sidney Crosby collected the puck at his own blue line and entered the offensive zone with speed - drawing four white jerseys to his side of the ice. Once he recognized the play unfolding, Zucker beelined straight for the net with his stick down. 

Crosby put a pass on his tape, and Zucker went down on one knee to one-time a shot past Montreal goalie Carey Price.

Tweet from @penguins: Our gift to you this Valentine's Day: this beautiful goal. 😍

"That pass was incredible," Zucker said. "I'm just glad I touched that one. I think on that play, I'm just trying to get open and use my speed so that the option is there."

On his second goal, Zucker again was in the right place at the right time. This time, he had to battle with Canadiens defenseman Brett Kulak at the top of the crease to get his blade on the ice - and he won, re-directing a pass from Marcus Pettersson.

Tweet from @penguins: 1������6������=🚨🚨

"That was unbelievable too," Zucker said. "I'm going to start giving 'Petey' the puck more often. I stole one from him the shift before that when he was trying to take a one-timer. I think that one was great."

Crosby earned a secondary assist on that tally as well. He and Zucker certainly built on the chemistry that was evident when they were first put together for Tuesday's game. 

"Tonight, he was flying," Crosby said. "He created a lot and got a couple big goals for us. He looked comfortable out there. It's hard. There are a lot of things they're throwing at you. He probably has a lot of things going through his mind in that situation. Today probably felt more like a regular game day for him. It's the same game."

Overall, tonight was a perfect example of why the Penguins pursued Zucker as relentlessly as they did. His style of play truly is a perfect fit for how the Penguins want to play.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said he felt that Zucker's speed was more noticeable tonight, especially when transitioning from defense to offense. He liked how Zucker was able to create separation and jump into windows of opportunity to receive passes.

"I just think Jason is going to get more comfortable with every day that he's here," Sullivan said. "You can see his ability to finish. He had two real good goals tonight. We're excited about having him. He's only going to get better. I just think familiarity is going to help him."

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