They could breathe much easier. For the first time in seven games, the Pittsburgh Penguins scored the first goal of the game, and they cruised from there. The sky was blue, the sea was green, and winger Bryan Rust submarined the Ottawa Senators with a hat trick in the Penguins 7-3 win on Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Rust is inching closer to the 30-goal mark. With 17 games remaining, Rust needs three more goals after he notched his 25th, 26th and 27th goals of the year. Thus far, he has blown past his previous career-high of 18 goals, and Rust and center Evgeni Malkin have been the most consistent Penguins offensive producers in the Penguins otherwise injury-plagued season.
Rust didn’t get the game-winner, but his goal late in the first period was a dagger through Ottawa, which gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead. It was the continuation of a good period by the Penguins and an end to the storm clouds.
“I think when we got out to the 1-0 lead a minute into the game, that right there was a little bit of a change,” Rust said. “It threw some confidence throughout our group.”
Rust scored later in the third period when he again ripped a wrister past goalie Craig Anderson. Then he finished a rebound chance from a beautiful give-and-go between Patric Hornqvist and Evgeni Malkin.
“(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.”
The hat trick was the third of Rust’s career and second triple against Ottawa.
“It was definitely nice to see some pucks go in the net. We’ve hit a lot of posts, open nets, and had a lot of chances recently,” Rust smiled. “It does a lot for guys’ confidence and team confidence when we get some pucks to go in.”
Watch Bryan Rust in the Penguins locker room: