Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ win against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena.
* There’s no doubt that Patric Hornqvist is the heart of this Pens team. His grit and enthusiasm are contagious and inspiring. His return to the lineup tonight after missing the first three games of the season due to surgery on his hand gave the team a shot of life.
Hornqvist found his normal spot around the opposing teams crease and helped create two Pittsburgh goals, both on the power play. On that first power-play goal, in which the penalty itself was drawn by Hornqvist, he passed the puck from the side of the goal to Bryan Rust. A net-front battle ensued and Letang would finish off that play.
On the second man-advantage tally, Hornqvist would be the one finishing the play. As Sidney Crosby put a shot on net, a scrum followed for the rebound. Hornqvist dove and took a swat with his stick that knocked the puck into the net for his first goal of the year.
Hornqvist finished the game with two points (1G-1A) and infinite energy. He only has one speed and he was full throttle.
* The Pens power-play units were a bit of a hodgepodge of personnel setups, but the result was three goals on the night. Letang scored his first goal of the season – and first since Feb. 4 at St. Louis – while working with the second unit.
At the tail end of a man-advantage in the second period, the Pens actually had the forward trio of Hornqvist, Crosby and Tom Kuhnhackl. They hooked up to score the Pens’ second goal of the game with a Crosby shot, Kuhnhackl screen, Hornqvist rebound tally.
Pittsburgh opened the third period on the power play and used a unit of Crosby, Hornqvist and Conor Sheary up front with Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz on the backend. Maatta’s shot-pass was re-directed in by Sheary at the crease.
Head coach Mike Sullivan began three power-play opportunities by letting the second unit start and take the majority of the minutes. No doubt a reward for their effort and contributions.
* Heading into tonight’s contest the Caps’ power play had converted on three of their nine opportunities. Last year they boasted the NHL’s third-ranked power play with a 23.1-percent scoring rate. Pittsburgh knew that the key to winning tonight’s game would be the work of its penalty kill.
The PK was up to the task. The Pens killed off all four power-play chances for Washington – and stretched their consecutive kill streak to 17.
* Stick tap to Carl Hagelin for an excellent game. No, he didn’t figure in on the scoring sheet. But he was a factor on the ice. Hagelin’s work on the PK helped the Pens thwart four Caps’ man-advantages. He used his speed to give himself a breakaway chance in the second period. Hagelin also drew a penalty when he poked a puck at the blue line, then forced goaltender Braden Holtby to race for the puck and cover with his glove resulting in a delay of game penalty.
Hagelin will score soon enough. But you can’t knock the effort.
* Pens goalie Matt Murray had a rough opening to the season by allowing 10 goals in the opening 5.5 periods of play. But since then, Murray has allowed just two goals in his last two games, which includes one shutout and a shutout sequence of 105:23 minutes.