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PHN EXTRA: Malkin, Letang Boom; Penguins Report Card vs. Rangers



Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby

The Pittsburgh Penguins had enough screwing around for one afternoon.  After pressuring the New York Rangers in the first 30 minutes and tempting fate with Sidney Crosby’s double minor at the end of the first period, head coach Mike Sullivan made big line changes in the third period and the Penguins were suddenly a rocket.

The Penguins fired over 40 shots for the first time since… Little help, Bob Grove?

The Penguins kill off of the Crosby four-minute high-sticking brought the crowd and the team to life. The line changes added the execution and finish to the zest.

Zach Aston-Reese went to the Malkin line, Nick Bjugstad moved to center on the third line which allowed Phil Kessel to swap back to his comfy right wing spot with his buddy, Malkin. But it was Aston-Reese and his low-zone drives which created space for Malkin to dazzle in the third period.

“We just didn’t think Geno’s line was getting consistent zone time,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “We talked about a potential ‘Plan B’ that if we didn’t see any development of that line then maybe we’d try (Bjugstad) at the third line center role and go from there.”

Head coach Mike Sullivan would do well to keep the changes he made. The click on all lines was immediate.  Aston-Reese brought the heavy but it was Malkin who made it go.

“He’s such a dominant player when he’s on top of his game. He’s so impactful. It can’t help but make your bench 6 inches taller,” Mike Sullivan gushed.

The Penguins also utilized the low-to-high game with their defenseman firing over 20 shots and getting three goals (two by Letang, one by Dumoulin).

“It’s huge. That’s how we want to play. We want to guys to join the rush and support the attack,” said Kris Letang. “We rely on our mobility out there and guys that can help our forwards offensively. To see them get rewarded is nice.”

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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