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Penguins

Penguins power play finds redemption in win over Colorado

Jonathan Bombulie
| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, 5:33 a.m.
The Penguins’ Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby celebrate with Jake Guentzel after Geuntzel’s goal against the Avalanche in the first period Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby celebrate with Jake Guentzel after Geuntzel’s goal against the Avalanche in the first period Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

There was a theme of redemption running through the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

For the team, it was redemption from a 6-3 loss to the Avs last week. On that night, Sidney Crosby’s natural hat trick wasn’t enough to deliver a victory. On Tuesday, Patric Hornqvist’s natural hat trick was.

For Evgeni Malkin and Derick Brassard, it was redemption for a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night where the second and third lines couldn’t get anything going. Both scored Tuesday. Malkin broke a stretch of 15 games without an even-strength goal. Brassard snapped a six-game point drought.

Most of all, it was redemption for the Penguins power play.

They gave up a critical shorthanded goal in the loss to the Flyers. They gave up another shorthanded goal as the Avalanche erased a 3-0 deficit in the second period Tuesday. Their seven shorthanded goals against lead the league.

With the score tied 3-3 in the third period, though, they struck for the biggest goal of the game. Hornqvist cashed in the rebound of a Kris Letang shot to give the Penguins the lead for good.

“Our power play hasn’t been good lately,” Hornqvist said. “We just have to simplify the game. We’ve been together for so long and we’ve been successful. Do what you’re good at and make sure you support your teammates out there.”

The shorthanded goals have been a cause for great consternation for coach Mike Sullivan of late.

On Tuesday, he thought about breaking up his top unit to include a second defenseman for a little added responsibility.

“It’s a tough call because this power play, this group of five, have been together for a long time, and they’ve been one of the best power plays in the league for three-plus years,” Sullivan said. “Last year, they were the No. 1 power play in the league and their numbers were off the charts. We gave up three goals against in 82 games. The scheme hasn’t changed.”

“It’s still early in the season. Do we show faith in this group?” Sullivan wondered aloud.

Ultimately, he decided to stick with his starting five.

“My gut instinct was to throw them back out there because when they’re on, they’re good,” Sullivan said. “They’re as good a power play as there is in the league. I believe in them. That’s why I tend to try to stick with them because I believe in them. When they play the game hard and they play the game the right way as a power-play unit of five, there’s no better group in the league.”

Making Sullivan’s decision a little easier was the fact that the latest shorthanded goal allowed was probably more a product of bad luck than poor play.

“I think there times when we don’t have a defensive conscience, and those goals can be avoided and they’re frustrating,” Sullivan said. “When you look at the goal tonight, I think Tanger tries to take a shot and it hits a guy in the shin pad and they get a fortuitous bounce that ends up in a two-on-one. Phil Kessel really tracks back hard to make it a two-on-two and it goes in the net.”

Letang agreed with his coach’s assessment.

“They’re really good at blocking shots. Trust me,” Letang said. “When you’re looking at the net, there’s nobody, but people make a living of blocking shots. They jump in front of it. They put their legs in front of it.

“Players make millions blocking shots right now. That’s the way it is.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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