Crosby sparks Penguins to victory over Lightning
Beau Bennett officially introduced himself to Pittsburgh on Sunday night.
The Consol Energy Center crowd had already seen this version of Sidney Crosby before.
Bennett got the game-winning goal, and Crosby again displayed that his form is returning as the Penguins defeated Tampa Bay, 5-3.
Crosby, in fact, set up Bennett's game-winner in the second period.
“It felt awesome,” Bennett said.
Three standout plays were required to pull off Bennett's goal.
Defenseman Kris Letang started the play by whacking the puck out of midair, keeping it in Tampa Bay territory.
“He's athletic,” defenseman Paul Martin said of the play. Usually the Canadians aren't that good with their baseball swings. That was a big play for us.”
The play was just getting started.
Crosby, with the puck in the right wing circle, skated toward the Tampa Bay net and then fired a cross-ice feed to Bennett. The rookie made no mistake, burying a shot past goaltender Mathieu Garon.
Bennett played in the left circle during his abbreviated season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and thrived in that spot.
“One thing I noticed right away was his hockey sense,” Martin said. “Just the way he understands the game. He's got those hands, too. He'll be better the more experience he gets.”
Bennett certainly showed enough instincts to be ready to unleash a shot when Crosby had the puck. The Penguins used their first round pick in 2010 on Bennett hoping that he would eventually become a strong linemate for either Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
While it remains to be seen what kind of chemistry he will develop with the Penguins' stars, one thing is certain: Bennett has immediately become accepted by his new teammates.
“He's a young guy that comes into a tight locker room,” veteran right wing Pascal Dupuis said. “Guys have been together for a long time here. For a new guy to come into this locker room has to feel a little intimidating, especially for a first-year pro.”
And yet the Penguins have clearly embraced him.
“He's got that swagger, that confidence,” Dupuis said. “He's confident in his own ability. It's the NHL. It's a big step. And, obviously, he's playing well.”
The same could be said of the guy who distributed the puck to Bennett.
Crosby scored an early goal on a rocket of a wrist shot and managed another in the first period that he barely touched.
“Hit me in the heel,” he said.
But with Tampa Bay creeping back into the game, Crosby's biggest play of all was a pass to Bennett.
The Penguins have struggled with the 5-on-3 power play during the Crosby era, but Bennett looked like a natural in the left circle. Rarely have the Penguins had a right-handed shot playing forward on the power play during the past few seasons.
And, according to many of the Penguins, rarely have they had a winger with Bennett's skill set.
“Beau is a high-end, offensive skill guy,” coach Dan Bylsma said.
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