The Penguins defeated the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night by a score of 4-1. Colorado, on pace to have one of the worst seasons in recent memory, just couldn’t match the Penguins tonight. It’s a head scratcher. They’ve got a talented roster and they just aren’t felling like they were expected to.
The first period was actually dominated by the Avalanche despite the Penguins coming away with a 1-0 lead. Colorado had more scoring chances in the first and kept Murray on his heels. He was well up to the task.
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead when center Matt Cullen picked up a puck and entered the zone in a 2-on-1 with Phil Kessel. Cullen fed Kessel on a cross crease pass and Kessel slipped the puck five-hole on Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard who’s been relatively good against the Penguins in his two games against them.
The second period was a greatly improved period offensively for the Penguins. Matt Murray had himself some more incredible saves including one on Avalanche forward Nathan Mackinnon as he came racing down on Murray with his incredible speed. Mackinnon hit three posts on the night.
The Penguins, or better yet, Patric Hornqvist felt like tonight was one of those games where he’d score because it was his type of game. He scored twice in the second. One was off of a great play by Justin Schultz on the boards to get it to Phil Kessel who tossed it to Hornqvist in front.
The second one came via the grit of Hornqvist as he took a Schultz pass and scored within a few feet of the net, something that’s become Hornqvist’s forté.
The third period was a breeze for the Penguins as they really just came out trying to play mistake free hockey and win the game. Aside from a Brian Dumoulin delay of game and a trip by Hornqvist late in the third that led to the only Avalanche goal, the Penguins played pretty much easy-breezy on their way to clinching the 4-1 victory.
Chris Kunitz added an empty netter for the fourth goal to clinch it.
- Justin Schultz is just an incredible hockey player. Schultz doesn’t make mistakes. Thursday, he passed Duncan Keith for third on the points for defenseman list this season. He’s the epitome of what the Penguins have been looking for. A lot of successful teams have two very high quality NHL defenseman and outside of Kris Letang, the Penguins had been missing that guy until Schultz came along. He’s going to get himself a nice pay day at year’s end.
- Patric Hornqvist has a knack for taking over games. Hornqvist was the main piece in the James Neal trade a few summer’s ago and he doesn’t disappoint. He’s just really good at getting under the opposition’s skin. It seems like when Horny scores one goal, you can almost guarantee that he’s going to score again. He’s a smart player and enjoys the mucky type of games like the one played Thursday night.
- When Matt Murray is on, he’s damn near unbeatable. Matt Murray was able to hold the Avalanche to one goal Thursday and he did a lot of the work himself. The Avalanche are a fast team with guys like Mackinnon and Matt Duchene who can really fly if they get moving. This game was eerily reminiscent of some of his Stanley Cup games in 2016. Granted, the Avs aren’t a good team. But Murray still was very sharp and ready all night long.