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Transition Game and Leadership: Penguins Report Card vs. Ottawa

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Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby

Bryan Rust filled the net, and the Pittsburgh Penguins skated the Ottawa Senators out of the building. Rust had a hat trick, and Sidney Crosby scored a goal with two assists as the Penguins ended their longest losing streak in nearly a decade with a 7-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Make no mistake, the game was more significant than an ordinary Tuesday night skate against an Eastern Conference bottom feeder. The beleaguered Penguins faced a moment of crisis on Tuesday night. They can downplay it but if the Penguins fell behind the Ottawa Senators at home, after bombing on their recent four-game road trip and losing six straight, the Pittsburgh crowd which otherwise enjoyed the live band dishing one-hit wonders on 90’s night, would have turned uglier than LA if OJ were convicted (90’s reference).

Instead of growing angst and cascading boos, the Penguins instead earned a helping of feel-good with three first period goals. Then a Bryan Rust hat trick.

More important than lighting the lamp was how the Penguins did it.

The return of Brian Dumoulin and John Marino made a significant difference in the Penguins breakouts and attack. Dumoulin’s extra step on the Penguins top pair was more than a little bit noticeable as he was able to get back on pucks and avoid forecheckers in a way that Jack Johnson does not. The same goes for John Marino, who also returned to the Penguins lineup on Tuesday night.

“They’re such good players on both sides of the puck,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “They defend so well. they have puck poise on the breakouts…”

“You could see it from the very first shift when (Marino) scored,” Bryan Rust said.

The Penguins rush, and puck possession was immediately buoyed by the pair of defensemen who added an infusion of speed and puck movement to the Penguins blueline which has been sorely lacking. And the Penguins stars showed up, too.

“(Malkin), Sid and ‘Tanger,’ all three of them just led by example,” Rust said. “They went out there and played hard from the very first shift. It was definitely fun to play with them.”

Penguins Tactical Analysis & Report Card
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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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