Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Five thoughts from Penguins’ 7-0 win in Game 1
1Puck luck for Penguins: The Penguins took a 3-0 first-period lead in Game 1 of their first-round playoff game against the Philadelphia Flyers, thanks to several spectacular plays.
What shouldn’t be lost in the first two goals by Bryan Rust and Carl Hagelin was how the puck went the Penguins way.
Sidney Crosby played the puck off his left skate for a perfect pass to Jake Guentzel to start a rush that saw it fed to Kris Letang for a shot. Rust rebounded at the top of the left circle for a 1-0 lead at 2 minutes, 38 seconds for the first goal of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
A lost glove above the right hash marks prevented the Flyers from clearing the puck, a turnover that led to Patric Hornqvist’s pass to Hagelin in the crease for a redirect through goalie Brian Elliott’s blocker side made it 2-0 at 10:07.
The Penguins thoroughly outplayed the Flyers, but the bounces also went their way.
2Gold glove: The biggest and best play might have been by Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
Soon after Rust’s goal, Flyers winger Scott Laughton fanned on a point-blank shot at the right post. Murray stretched out for a spectacular save, stopping his second shot with the bottom of his glove to the roar of the PPG Paints Arena crowd.
If not for that play by Murray, the game is tied at 1-1.
3Message received: Back in mid-December, the day before the Penguins played at the Vegas Golden Knights, general manager Jim Rutherford stood in front of the team bus and talked about whether it was time to make a move for the sake of “changing the team up and giving it a better chance to win.”
Carl Hagelin would have been a candidate to go, given he had only two goals at the time.
But he also is a $4 million cap hit, and NHL teams aren’t desperate to deal for that type of salary without the scoring.
Sometimes, it’s important not to be trigger happy but to remember what players have brought in the past. It was Hagelin who scored the empty-netter to finish off the Nashville Predators, 2-0, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Hagelin had a strong second half to finish with 10 goals and 31 points, and showed his playoff poise with the second goal.
“Sometimes,” Hagelin said in December, “it’s good to get a kick in the butt to get going.”
4Malkin makes magic: Evgeni Malkin drew a ticky-tack hooking penalty with 48 seconds left on the Penguins’ first power play, but quickly made up for his mistake when he got out of the box.
Malkin took a pass from Hagelin in the defensive zone, sped past the Flyers on the left side and then beat defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere as he crossed over to the right circle.
That’s when Malkin fired a beautiful backhand to beat Elliott’s blocker side for a 3-0 lead at 14:09. It was a superstar-caliber play, a strong sign for Malkin in the opening game of the postseason.
5. The Kids and Sid: Playing together on the first line last season, Sidney Crosby, Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel got tagged as Sid and The Kids.
That nickname was reversed in the second period, as Sheary started a tic-tac-toe play that led to a Guentzel goal.
Sheary slid a pass from the left circle to Derick Brassard in the right circle, who fed Guentzel all alone at the left post for a 4-0 lead at 7:50 of the second period.
Only Crosby could one-up that play.
And, of course, he did.
Only 1:11 later, Guentzel fed defenseman Brian Dumoulin from the boards to the top of the left circle. Crosby deflected Dumoulin’s shot off Elliott’s shoulder and into the net for a 5-0 lead at 9:01 of the second.
It was third goal Crosby scored on a mid-air shot in 22 days, as he showed off his incredible hand-eye coordination in swinging his stick at floating pucks against Montreal on March 21 and at New Jersey on March 29.
Not only that, but it marked the fifth time in five games against the Flyers this season the Penguins scored five goals. Even more amazing, Crosby would score twice more for a natural hat trick.
Are you kidding me?
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.