Speed didn’t kill the Penguins on Saturday.
Instead, it propelled them.
Both Bryan Rust and Carl Hagelin—who again skated with Evgeni Malkin on the second line—had their handprints all over the point gathering against Toronto (35-20-5), combining for five points in the win, with each finding the back of the net once, including Hagelin’s seventh goal of the season, which opened the scoring for Pittsburgh (34-22-4) with just over three minutes left in the first period.
“We were making good plays on the puck when we had it and worked hard to get it back when we didn’t have it,” said Hagelin about the simplicity of successful, winning strategy.
“It was just on of those nights where we were just working hard and finding each other and reading off each other really well and we put a few pucks in the night,” said Rust, who scored his ninth of the season late in the third period on the final goal of the night.
“That’s my game. I get up and down the ice fast,” continued Rust about embracing the pace of the game.
The anchor of the second line scored his 33rd goal of the season midway through the first period, while also adding two assists, continuing Malkin’s ferocious reign through the last 10 games, which has yielded 20 points on 12 goals in that span.
“He’s on a tear right now. He’s unbelievable,” said Rust of Malkin’s hot streak.
“I’m not trying to think about my points, but I try to focus my [entire] game,” explained Malkin, who secured his 900th career point on the goal, becoming just the fourth Penguin in the history of the franchise to accomplish the feat.
The center talked about sharing a second line with Hagelin and Rust, which has been a consistent look for the past five games.
“I’m trying to skate the same way but it is too far for me,” Geno said in a somewhat flippant tone. “It’s fun to watch how these guys forecheck and backcheck and I try to be close and support [the] two and be everywhere. Just play with a spark and try to use my skill.”
“They’ve been together for a handful of games now,” said Mike Sullivan of the line. “I think what (Hagelin) and (Rust) do, is they create that north-south game for Geno and I think Geno is more inclined to shoot the puck when he plays with those guys, and that is when we think he’s at his best.”
The fourth line supplied its own charge of energy, when with 7:56 left in the game, Olli Maatta (4) punched home the game-winner off a blue line slap shot that sailed past the glove of Frederik Andersen, who gave up all five goals on 39 shots.
“This was a fun game to play in. Those are the playoff type games” said Matta.
Zach Aston-Reese rounded out the scoring for the Pens, knocking him his third career goal on a patient moment where the forward corralled the puck with his skate, then pushed it to his stick, going up and over Andersen.
“I had an overtime goal against Binghamton that was kind of similar, where the puck squirted out front and I brought it to my back hand and waited for the goalie, kind of flail his pads out,” said Aston-Reese about carrying his aggressive, crash the net style game from Wilkes-Barre to the Pens.
“This is probably the quickest team that I’ve played so far,” the rookie continued. “They are really good in transition and really skilled. It wasn’t one of the more physical games, but it is tougher in the sense of pace and quickness.”
Matt Murray powered Pittsburgh to the tune of 29 saves, stopping all eight he faced in the third period.
With the win, the Penguins (73 points) stand behind only Washington in the battle for the Eastern Metropolitan divison.
After the moneyline
The Penguins came in as -140 favorites, avenging their home loss to Toronto back on Dec. 9.
The total, which was set at six goals, sailed over for the eighth time in Pittsburgh’s current 11-game home win streak, which started back on Jan. 2. In those eight games, a combined 44 goals were put on the board by the Penguins.
The Penguins will go on the dreaded home-to-away, back-to-back with Columbus tomorrow night. Puck drops at Nationwide Arena at 6 PM.