Bryan Rust's resurgence powers Penguins' turnaround
Bryan Rust already has a job, one he’s been doing quite well lately, but if the Pittsburgh Penguins needed a mascot to represent how their season’s gone so far, he’d be a prime candidate.
When the team was struggling, mired in the depths of the Eastern Conference standings, Rust had one goal, seven points and a minus-4 rating in his first 29 games of the season.
Since the team has turned it around, flirting with first place in the Metropolitan Division race, Rust has eight goals, 12 points and a plus-9 rating in his last 12 games.
“I think, right now, he’s feeling it,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s a confident player out there and you can see it in his poise with the puck. He’s playing extremely well.
“As I said earlier in the year when Rusty was not scoring, he brings so much to our team even if he doesn’t show up on the scoresheet. His skating ability and his speed and his puck pursuit, that’s the foundation of his individual game. That’s what he brings to any line he’s on. That’s what helps him create the opportunities that either his linemates get or he gets. Right now, I think he’s using his footspeed as good as I’ve seen him in all the years I’ve coached him here in Pittsburgh.”
Rust scored twice in a 5-1 Penguins victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
On both goals, he got a step on a defender while skating down the slot, took a pass from a teammate and made a move to beat goaltender Roberto Luongo.
On the first, the teammate was Jake Guentzel and the move was a backhand.
On the second, the teammate was Matt Cullen and he went to the forehand.
The goals made Rust the 91st player in franchise history to record 100 points in a Penguins uniform. He has 44 goals and 56 assists in 223 games.
In general, the Penguins weren’t pleased with how they played against the Panthers. They gave up too many golden scoring chances and leaned too heavily on goalie Matt Murray.
“I kind of thought it was an ugly game back and forth,” Rust said. “I thought there were a lot of chances both ways, a lot of real good chances. I think we’ve got to be happy we came away with a good win. I think Murr bailed us out a lot. I think we have to try to learn from that and get better.”
That said, with Rust scoring at the pace he is, it’s hard for the Penguins to lose.
“I’ve been the product of some real good plays,” Rust said. “Just try to keep my feet moving, get to open space and guys are finding me and I’m able to put it in.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.