There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The Penguins were not playing well lately. There were on a 6 game losing streak, no one (besides maybe Geno) was playing efficiently, and it was truly showing. Even the Sid was not living his best life on the rink. It was an ugly thing to see, and the 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks was a fierce, FIERCE beating. That was rock bottom, and then Pens needed to treat it as such to bolster themselves and get back on top.
Did they do it? I’d say they are taking strides in the right direction. Last night they came out and bodied Ottawa 7-3, but let’s be real…it was Ottawa. Ottawa has absolutely nothing going for them right now. Beating them was expected, and anything less would have been an absolute travesty. So good thing for us that we did.
The first period was solid I think, especially when it comes to John Marino. His first game back in awhile and he scores as soon as the game begins, with only 48 seconds having gone by. Also scoring that period for the Penguins was recently returned Conor Sheary. To be fair, he didn’t really score…Mike Reilly scored against his own net, but that’s neither here nor there, a goal is a goal. Jayce Hawryluk cut the lead in half with just under 4 minutes remaining in the period, but Bryan Rust saw to that was a power play score with 45 seconds left in the first.
The second period was a little bit more questionable, with the Penguins seemingly getting outplayed the whole period. Crosby netted a goal to stretch the lead to 4-1, and the Pens got out of the period relatively unscathed.
I’m not sure what Sullivan said to the boys, but Zucker came out in the 3rd period and scored off the backhand 36 seconds in. With the lead extended to 5-1, the game seemed pretty much over. Unfortunately, it wasn’t, as Brady Tkachuk redirected a puck in about 30 seconds later. It was back and forth after that, with the next score coming from Connor Brown, giving Ottawa even more life as they cut the lead from 5-2 to 5-3.
Luckily, Bryan Rust came up BIG for the boys in black and gold, scoring two goals in the last 7 minutes of the game. Not only did he give the Penguins a 7-3 victory, but he got his 3rd career NHL hat trick, and first since December of 2018.
This wasn’t the prettiest game for the Penguins, but it’s a good thing for them to get back in the W column. At the very least, it’s a morale boost. To end a losing streak is a big deal, especially one that was as long as theirs. Especially coming from a team of their caliber. It benefits to get the defense back to their usual pairing and to give them some semblance of comfortability and familiarity. They need to take this victory and translate it to more. They play the Sabres tomorrow, and while the Sabres more than likely won’t be as tough since they are already out of the playoffs and pushing now seems unnecessary, it will still be a more difficult task than the Senators.
Are they back in top shape? No, I don’t think they are. I think they have adjustments to make to optimize the line pairings for the offense with the recent changes they’ve made. They are definitely getting there though, with any luck they’ll get on a hot streak and find their grove at the right time. They should be able to take that grove and push through the playoffs. We’ll see if they can keep those strides going in the right direction tomorrow.
On a happier note, congratulations to Sidney Crosby for getting his 800th assist last night! Kudos to Evgeni Malkin as well on a 4 assist night.