Home Pittsburgh Sports College Basketball Guentzel, Aston-Reese each score a pair as Pens down Senators 6-3

Guentzel, Aston-Reese each score a pair as Pens down Senators 6-3

Zach Aston-Reese scored his first two NHL career goals, as the Penguins cruised to their ninth-straight home victory in the win over Ottawa at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday night.

Home is where the win is. 

Nine straight wins that is.

Not losing in the paint can since Jan. 4, Pittsburgh (32-22-4) continued that boiling hot home cooking Tuesday night with their 6-3 roasting of Ottawa (19-27-9).

Rookie Zach Aston-Reese highlighted the day, scoring a pair of goals—his first two in his young NHL career—including his first, a stick-with-it finish over the glove of Mike Condon, giving the Penguins a 4-1 advantage midway through the second period, chasing the backup Ottawa netminder for Craig Anderson.

“It was pretty special,” said Aston-Reese, who has played in five games with the Penguins this year, corralling three points.  “It was almost like a release.  It was just really exciting to get that.”

Jake Guentzel joined the doubles game for the Pens, punching in the first two Penguins goals of the game, with his second—and 18th of the season—breaking a 1-1 tie just five minutes into the second period.

Guentzel’s first came on a power play blue line slap shot from the stick of Justin Schultz, which was deflected in by the third line forward to open the scoring at the 4:07 mark of the first period.

“Hopefully a steak is coming now,” said Guentzel, who has scored just three times in his last 19 games.

“You’ll take them as they come,” the left forward continued.  “You’re hoping they come in streaks now.  I’ve been in a little drought now, so you want to turn that around.”

“I’m thrilled for him because I know he’s working hard, he’s trying,” said Mike Sullivan of Guentzel finding the scoring column.  “For him to score two tonight should give him a boost of confidence.  I thought he had one of his stronger games [tonight] within the last month or so.”

Scoring four goals in the first two periods, including an Evgeni Malkin (31) blocker-side finish with the fancy assist work of Carl Hagelin, the Pens mustered just 11 shots total in the first 40 minutes of action, with Condon facing nine and giving up all four goals.

“I thought they outplayed us for the first two periods,” said Sullivan.  “I don’t think we defended hard enough, we didn’t take care of the puck.  I didn’t think we played with enough structure in the first two periods.”

Sullivan complimented the work of a solid third period, where the Penguins put 17 attempts on net, with Kris Letang (4) scoring on a fortuitous shot from the blue line, in which the puck danced along the pads of Anderson before drifting into the net.  Aston-Reese’s empty netter with 1:05 left in the game closed the scoring.

“We’re playing to our strengths,” said Matt Murray, who finished with 30 saves on the night. 

Murray talked about the offensive firepower in front of him that has yielded a combined 40 goals in the last nine games—the Pens winning seven of those.

“[We’re] using our speed, our forecheck to turn pucks over and getting pucks to the net quickly.  [We’re] not letting teams get set up in their defensive structure.  All of the stuff that we know we’re good at.  It’s fun to watch.  We’re scoring a lot of goals right now.”

Aston-Reese’s rising up

Mike Sullivan talked about the rising stock of his 23-year-old fourth line forward.

“He’s getting better with every game he plays.  He’s a really solid two-way player,” coach said.  “I think he’s hanging on to pucks more as he gets a little a more confident.  We’ve really liked every game he’s played, and he seems to be getting better.  Because of that fact, his ice time is going to grow.”

Reese, who scored a total of 37 points (12 goals) in 51 games in two years at Wilkes-Barre, shared a line with Carter Rowney and Ryan Reaves Tuesday night, though ended up on the receiving end of two Sidney Crosby assists on his goals.

“It’s pretty easy.  He can find you anywhere,” said a wide-eyed Aston-Reese working with Sid.  “You don’t really need to call for the puck, he just knows where you are.  As long as you keep your feet moving and find open spots, he’ll get you the puck.”

“We’ve had a lot of practice days thrown in the mix and having those days have been very beneficial to me,” explained the rookie in developing his game at the pro level.”

After the moneyline

Pittsburgh came in as a heavy -270 chalk favorite, also covering the -1.5 puck line (+115).  The total, which was set at six goals went over for the sixth time in the last eight games for the Pens.  During the Penguins nine-game home win streak, the over has hit six times.

Up next

The Penguins will look to stay hot at home when they host the LA Kings Thursday night.  Puck drops at 7.

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