Many returns were affront tonight as the Penguins took down the Nashville Predators 4-2 on Tuesday night. Other than the enjoyment of the 1st night of hockey being back after the All-Star game, we also saw a fresh face in Kris Letang back in the lineup heading the blue line. While that’s an old face we all have come to be familiar with, tonight we also met a new face.
Called up from the Baby Penguins in Wilkes Barre/Scranton, 27 year old right winger Carter Rowney made his NHL debut on the 4th line and logged 9 minutes of ice time. What’s so great about the Pens farm system is you can plug in numerous players to the team and not skip a beat, Rowney didn’t do much, but when he was out there on the ice he at least played smart and aggressive to the style of how the Penguins play. He didn’t look scared out there, and that’s all you can really ask for. Alright now for the game itself:
Though they went down 1-0 with 6 mins left in the 1st, the Penguins controlled most of the action leading off. They were very cyclical in moving the puck like they hadn’t just received a couple of days off, because of the hard work, they were rewarded just 2 1/2 minutes after the Predators took the lead when Chris Kunitz zipped a rolling puck past Pekka Rinne. A fortuitous bounce off the defenseman’s leg found Kuni at the hashmarks, and he did the rest. Kunitz has been so versatile this year moving to the 4th line and balancing that out as the Pens have dealt with some injuries, he can be used so many ways.
After 1 it was tied at 1, but the momentum of play was clearly on the Penguins side. Not only were they outshooting their opponent, the Pens were winning those small loose puck battles and creating opportunities in different ways. I personally think the Penguins are some of their best when they get goals through deflections, tip ins, etc. While that didn’t necessarily lead to a goal in the 1st period it made the Predators all rush to the net, have them on their heels and mostly been uncomfortable. It opened more fluidity for the Penguins rush in that 2nd, my goodness did their offense spark then. Thanks to the skill of the Pens very talented defenseman, the Penguins often have their d-men join a rush or even start 1, Trevor Daley gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead by just doing that.
Carrying the puck in from the center line after a pass by Carl Hagelin, Daley had a blitzing shot on the glove side that went through. When it comes to defenseman doing things on offense, the Penguins have a 3 headed monster really. We all know what Letang can do, Daley can rocket shots when needed and Justin Schultz has really stepped up when Tanger has been gone, he’s even 4th on the team in points!
Next up was Patric Hornqvist extracting some revenge on his old team. Not that you’re looking for revenge on an old team after you just won a Stanley Cup with the new 1, but you get my point. If you didn’t watch this game and you were to be told Hornqvist scored twice, where do you think he scored them from? That’s right, in front of the net like he’s done his entire career. Funny to think that his 1st goal of the night was actually a wrap around, and not a rebound in the middle.
His 2nd was another standard Hornqvist scrapping his way in a pile of people, only to be the man that comes out on top victorious making it 4-1. The only thing better than having a player on your favorite team score twice against his old 1, is a former player from your team getting a goal taken away from an early whistle. That’s exactly what happened to former Penguin James Neal. Wasn’t meant to be, advantage Hornqvist.
After the 3 goal fiesta of a 2nd period, the 3rd was pretty mundane. Back checking was the name of the game in the final 20 minute as the Penguins neutralized the Predators from a constant attack. They had their chances here and there, but there was never a sense of nervousness of a comeback. Besides a goal by Colin Wilson halfway through, the Penguins cracked down and played team hockey, Matt Murray was his usual stone wall self.
I don’t know what it is about the 3rd period but is just seems like Murray locks in like a closer in baseball coming for a save in the 9th. I am ultra confident anytime the Pens have a lead going into the 3rd when Murray’s in net. Actually, I’m just as confident if they’re only down 1 or 2 because the Pens have shown they can come back too. This was a great way to start things off after the 4 day weekend break, nice too that Columbus and Washington lost.