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Pittsburgh Penguins Report Card vs. New Jersey Devils

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Pittsburgh Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese
ITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 17: Pittsburgh Penguins Left Wing Zach Aston-Reese (46) skates during the first period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Anaheim Ducks on December 17, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

The Pittsburgh Penguins played on the rush. They pushed the New Jersey Devils defensemen back and they snapped shots at New Jersey goalie Keith Kincaid from all angles, though they had plenty of good scoring chances. After whiffing on their first three chances this season, the Penguins finally made New Jersey look like the inferior team in the 4-3 win at the Prudential Arena.

The Penguins played fast and hard. And all four lines had their feet beneath them and the Penguins attacked in waves. The low-to-high game also provided the top of the zone pressure which kept New Jersey honest.

Dare not think it–that looked like the real Pittsburgh Penguins. Except for the goaltending. There has to be some drama, right?

“We played in their face, we were playing aggressive,” said Bryan Rust. “We were backchecking hard and reloading for each other.”

Offensively, the Penguins used their suddenly offense-rich blue line to join the rush and give them more options for controlled zone entries. The Penguins used those rushes to back the New Jersey defensemen.

What a difference it makes to play low-to-high with credibility.

“A lot of teams like to collapse their guys in front and take away the slot area, so anytime we can get our D-men in the offense it spreads (the opponent) out pretty well,” Rust explained.

The Penguins did not lose the puck easily or give up on the play when they did. They pressured New Jersey, especially in the second period. Funny stat–through two periods, the Penguins had eight takeaways but New Jersey had 13. In other words, don’t always take the stats as gospel.

“When we talk about Penguins hockey, that was it,” Sullivan said.

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