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Penguins

Penguins notebook: Western Conference mini-road trip a success

Jonathan Bombulie
| Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, 6:12 p.m.
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray is congratulated by teammates after the team defeated the Blues on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, in St. Louis.
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray is congratulated by teammates after the team defeated the Blues on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, in St. Louis.
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby, left, is congratulated by Bryan Rust after scoring a goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, in St. Louis. The Penguins won 4-1. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby, left, is congratulated by Bryan Rust after scoring a goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, in St. Louis. The Penguins won 4-1. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)

Sunday's 4-1 victory over the Blues was significant because it helped the Penguins exorcise a pair of demons that had been haunting them in recent weeks.

Coming into the game, they were struggling on the road, losing three in a row and four of their previous five. They'd also had a hard time with bigger, physical Western Conference opponents. Three of their five losses in 2018 came against Anaheim, San Jose and Dallas.

Coupled with a 4-3 shootout loss in Dallas two days prior, Sullivan was pleased with the way a two-game road trip worked out.

“This was a tough trip. We knew it was going to be a tough trip going into it,” Sullivan said. “We're playing two of the better teams in the Western Conference, two of the better teams in the league for that matter. They've got a lot of skill. They can skate, and they're big. They present a lot of challenges in a number of different ways. To walk out with three out of four points coming off this trip, I think is a huge accomplishment.”

Shaking off the rust

With a goal and an assist Sunday, winger Bryan Rust has four goals and eight points in eight games since returning from an upper-body injury Jan. 23.

“Feeling better. With the exception of empty netters, I'm feeling better,” said Rust, who hit two posts in empty-net situation in the past two weeks. “Just my confidence is in a pretty good spot right now. I think for me, it just starts with moving my feet and plays will come from there.”

Stepping up

After a brief stint on the fourth line, winger Dominik Simon returned to the top line alongside Rust and Sidney Crosby on Sunday. Jake Guentzel was shuffled back to the third line.

Simon responded with a pair of assists and a plus-3 rating.

“He's really good at playing that give-and-go game down low,” Sullivan said. “One of his strengths is his ability to play in traffic. His tight-area game is really good. He's got great hands. He's elusive, and he sees it pretty well. For a guy that might be undersized a little bit, he's pretty strong on the puck.”

Homecoming king

The Blues played a tribute video for winger Ryan Reaves, who was playing his first game in St. Louis since being traded to the Penguins last June.

Reaves was a popular member of the Blues for seven seasons. Fans gave him a standing ovation at the end of the video.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.comor via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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