Shift in line suits Penguins winger Bennett just fine

Young winger switches from right side to left side in mid-game, makes big impact



The playoffs, Beau Bennett said, are no time to fuss over your ice time or your linemates.

He didn't flinch when he was moved from the top line to the third line in the second period Wednesday night in the Penguins' playoff opener against Columbus at Consol Energy Center.

He didn't pout when he got only three shifts in the third period.

"It's not tough," Bennett said. "Honestly, in the playoffs, you leave your ego at the door. Whatever happens, you're trying to get 16 wins. That's the end goal."

Bennett was instrumental in the first of what he hopes are 16 wins, which would equate to a Stanley Cup championship.

He deflected in a shot by Matt Niskanen for a power-play goal in the second period to pull the Penguins within 3-2, and on one of those three shifts in the third period he set up Brandon Sutter's winning goal.

Earlier in the day, Bennett, whose season was limited to 21 games because of injury, said he "was hoping I would hit midseason form right around playoff time."

A goal and an assist in what was his seventh career playoff game likely qualifies.

Bennett had been playing and practicing at right wing on the Penguins’ top line with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby. In-game, coach Dan Bylsma moved Bennett to left wing on the third line alongside Sutter and Lee Stempniak, trading places with Brian Gibbons.

"I thought we needed a little more on the first line after the first period," Bylsma said, adding that he liked Gibbons' speed with Crosby and Kunitz.

"I thought it was good for Beau Bennett as well. That's a formidable line."

Bennett often has stated no preference for which side he plays, but admitted that he liked his newest spot.

"Not surprised by it," he said of the switch. "We're usually shifting lines, just getting matchups. [Gibbons] is much faster than me, so he kind of fits in with those guys really well. I like the left wing, and it's nice to play with [Stempniak] and [Sutter] as well as [Kunitz] and Sid."

Before all that, when the game was young but the Penguins trailed, 1-0, Bennett's first splash of these playoffs was a big shoulder drive into Columbus defenseman Ryan Murray in the corner. The hit left Murray, who crumpled into the glass, with a bloody nose.

"I think that hurt me more than it hurt him," Bennett said with a smile. "It's something I try to add into my game -- get the big hit, get the boys going a little bit. I just saw an opportunity and just kept skating through him.

"We had just been on the ice for a goal-against. I was pretty upset at myself and I just wanted to try to get the boys going a little bit. Had a big head start from the red line in, and, luckily, he turned right into me."

In the second period, on the same power play in which the Penguins gave up a short-handed goal, Bennett redirected what Niskanen called a "slap-pass" for a goal.

Bennett said earlier in the day, he worked on that play with assistant Todd Reirden, who oversees the power-play unit.

"I literally just put my stick down, and [Niskanen] hit it," Bennett said. "I put a target there just in case he wanted it. Luckily, he did, and it went off my stick."

Niskanen begged to differ.

"A lot of teams use that play now," he said. "It's a hard play to defend, especially the way penalty-kills are nowadays. Everyone wants to block shots. That defenseman is in my lane all the time. So sometimes you have to aim for sticks in the slot like that.

"It was a good read by Beau to get his stick available, and he made a heck of a nice tip."

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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