Mike Sullivan has his first win as coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. And it’s one he’s probably going to savor for a while.
After losing their past five games and scoring no more than two goals in each, the Pens exploded for five goals against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night, including two from both Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Snapping their streak against the Blue Jackets probably made it feel that much better for the Penguins given the recent feisty history between the teams.
The team has been under fire for its lack of scoring lately, with GM Jim Rutherford saying that Pittsburgh’s recent losing streak made him “sick”, and Sidney Crosby’s drop in scoring has been a particular source of frustration. Strangely, Monday’s win came in Crosby’s first game out of the lineup after suffering a lower-body injury in Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes.
A four-goal outburst in the second period, including two on the power play, was the difference for the Penguins. In just his second NHL game, rookie Matthew Murray stopped 22 shots for his first win in the league.
It was the kind of game that showed exactly what the Penguins are capable of being but that hasn’t been the norm for them this year. They’ll now enjoy their holiday break before returning to the ice on Saturday in Minnesota. Whether Pittsburgh can build off this win and start scoring more consistently will define its season moving forward.