Carter Rowney scored his first career NHL goal in the Penguins' win Friday
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sidney Crosby notched an assist in the Penguins’ 6-4 win against the Devils Friday, tying him with Jaromir Jagr for second on the all-time franchise list with 640.
Tom Kuhnhackl had two assists, giving him 18 for his career. Only 628 to go.
Kuhnhackl set up Carter Rowney’s game-winning goal early in the third period Friday, and also picked up a secondary helper on Nick Bonino’s score late in the second. It was Kuhnhackl’s first multi-point game of the season, and gives him three assists in his last four games.
Kuhnhackl isn’t going to make his living offensively, but chipping in like he did Friday night is a nice complement to his primarily defensive style of play, especially with the Penguins dealing with as many injuries as they are.
More to character, Kuhnhackl also saw 3:55 of shorthanded ice time for the Penguins, nearly half of his 7:53 total.
“Tommy, he doesn’t play a ton of minutes for us, but he plays really important minutes for us,” coach MikeSullivan said. “That’s what we value as far as what he brings to the team.”
Sullivan is right, of course. Kuhnhackl averages 8:15 of ice time per game this season, and 1:49 of shorthanded action per night. That means, on average, 22 percent of his ice time is spent on the penalty kill. That figure is the second highest on the Penguins, behind only Matt Cullen’s 23.8 percent.
And while his minutes may not be high, they have gotten more consistent. Kuhnhackl has played in 18 consecutive games, his longest stretch of the season, after being a healthy scratch earlier in the year. Some of that is due to the recent rash of injuries, but Kuhnhackl’s improved play has also played a role.
“He’s a valuable player for us,” Sullivan said. “He plays an important role. Sometimes I think some of the guys that maybe don’t log the minutes that our top guys do, it certainly doesn’t — from the coaching staffs standpoint or their teammates standpoint — it doesn’t overshadow their value to the team as far as their contribution, and I think Tommy’s one of those guys.”
A few other thoughts…
***Sort of an up-and-down game for MattMurray tonight. He ultimately made the saves he had to and got the win, but also gave up four goals to a New Jersey team that averages 2.29 per game this season. The Devils also only average 27.5 shots per game — lowest in the NHL — and got 36 Friday night, so some of the responsibility falls on the Penguins’ skaters, too.
Regardless, it’s worth considering whether or not Murray is starting to tire out a bit down the stretch here. This was his 42nd start of the season, and he has (obviously) never played this many NHL games before. Based on the split during the recent road trip, it seems like the Penguins are willing to work Marc-Andre Fleury into the mix more now than they were earlier in the year, so it’s possible he’ll get the start Sunday against Florida.
***For as much as injuries may be shuffling up the rest of the lineup, the Penguins should (and seem to) make it a priority to keep the Guentzel-Crosby-Sheary grouping together. They were excellent again tonight, and teamed up for Guentzel’s first-period goal (with a healthy assist from BrianDumoulin). They also generated the most shot attempts of any Penguins line tonight.
***That DerrickPouliot was even playing in this game was not ideal, as he was called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Friday morning because of an upper-body injury to Ron Hainsey.
Remember when the plan was to let Pouliot develop more? We might have seen why Friday.
Pouliot was on the ice for three of the four New Jersey goals and didn’t come close to making up for it on the power play, where he lost the puck several times.
On the first goal, Pouliot got caught entirely too far up ice, and TaylorHall sprung KylePalmieri.
You could argue the second wasn’t Pouliot’s fault. He was defending the entry, but if you look at the replay, there’s a moment of where-do-I-go-now hesitation and a lack of urgency getting to the front of the net that proves costly.
Again, it’s one game. But I’d imagine the Penguins would want to see some real progress with Pouliot at the NHL level, otherwise he’s looking a lot like the Penguins’ version of ChadHermanson.
***The power play was much, much better tonight. And, man, does MarkStreit fit.
While they weren’t perfect, the execution on the zone entries was night and day from the dumpster fire we saw Wednesday in Philadelphia.
There was a lot to like on Crosby’s power-play goal at 19:45 of the first period as well.
The Penguins had done an excellent job finding open space for him in the right circle, and Streit made a ridiculous, cross-ice, no-look pass for a perfect setup that Crosby buried.
Crosby wound up attempting 10 shots, tied with PhilKessel for the game-high.
Numbers, notes and milestones
• With 97 points, the Penguins are now one behind the Capitals for the NHL and Metropolitan Division lead.
• Penguins improved to 21-2-2 in their last 25 home games. They’ve scored four or more goals in 20 of those games.
• Penguins have won their past 15 home games against the Devils when they score two or more goals.
• This marks the first time in the Penguins-Devils series that the Penguins have won five in a row at any point. They’ve outscored New Jersey, 25-11, during the stretch.
• Guentzel’s seven points (3-4–7) in March ties him with Toronto’s MitchMarner for the NHL lead among rookies.
• Streit has five points (1-4–5) in eight games played with the Penguins.
• Crosby has scored in all four games against the Devils this season. It was his seventh multi-goal game of the season. He’s now tied with BradMarchand for the league lead in goals with 37.
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