Penguins 3rd line explodes in win over Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Penguins made a marquee trade Friday, acquiring center Derick Brassard from Ottawa in a deal that will super-charge their third line down the stretch and into the playoffs.
While the deal was being hashed out, their current third line was tearing apart the Carolina Hurricanes.
The trio of Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel and Riley Sheahan combined for three goals, leading the Penguins to a 6-1 victory Friday night.
The Penguins have won six in a row to climb back past Washington into first place in the Metropolitan Division.
“The players did a good job keeping the focus and making sure that we stayed in the moment,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “That's going to be important down the stretch. We've got a great opportunity in front of us. We've got to go out and earn it each and every day.”
With the Penguins holding a 2-1 lead in the second period, Kessel scored twice in a three-minute span to give his team ample breathing room.
On the first, Brian Dumoulin made a long head-man pass to spring Guentzel up the right wing. He made a quick cross-ice pass to Kessel, who hit paydirt from the left faceoff circle.
On the second, Guentzel made a diagonal pass to Kessel at the right post for a shot that slipped between the pads of goalie Cam Ward.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin added third-period goals to turn the game into a rout. Patric Hornqvist made his return to the lineup after missing seven games with a lower-body injury.
Conventional wisdom says Brassard will be slotted alongside Kessel on the third line.
If that happens, it won't be because Sullivan is unhappy with the work the current third line has done.
“They did a lot of great things out there,” Sullivan said. “I don't think because we've acquired Derick Brassard, I don't want it to diminish what Riley Sheahan has brought or meant to our team. This guy is a good player.”
Sullivan coached Brassard for one season when he was an assistant with the New York Rangers in 2012-13.
“He's been a top-two center iceman in the league for a long time,” Sullivan said. “I know he's going to make our team better.”