Defenseman Derrick Pouliot and forward Daniel Winnik are Penguins’ youngest and newest players, respectively.
Both were solid during a 5-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday at Consol Energy Center.
Pouliot scored his second goal of the season, going top-shelf with a Patric Hornqvist rebound on the power play, and Winnik set up linemate Steve Downie for a goal in the third period.
“I thought sometimes I was a little tentative and unsure of where to be on the ice,” said Winnik, who played 13:29, including 2:23 shorthanded, and finished with one hit, one giveaway and no shot attempts. “But that’s pretty typical, to get used to the new system and the guys I’m playing with.”
Pouliot, I thought, was superb, their best player at times. So did fellow beat man Josh Yohe.
Pouliot is trying to earn a postseason job and may have just done that by playing a strong puck-possession style, skating with a lot of confidence.
The 21-year-old finished with seven shot attempts, six on goal and played 18:25.
“He had the puck a lot,” coach Mike Johnston said. “If you look at puck-possession time, he may have had the puck as much as anybody on our team.
“That’s the way he is as a player. He can jump into holes, find those holes, get the puck and start to move with it. Those types of players, they put the other team back, and they don’t force you to have to defend as much because you escape your zone so quick.”
I asked Pouliot afterward whether this was the best game’s played as a pro.
The answer was telling.
“I think it’s getting up there,” Pouliot said. “I think I still have another gear or two, but I’m definitely feeling more comfortable and back to my normal self.”
Other observations from this one:
=The Blue Jackets miss Brandon Dubinsky. Like, a lot. Not only because he becomes a pain in Sidney Crosby’s backside – Crosby finished with two secondary assists – but his energy is something that Columbus thrives on.
Dubinsky suffered a concussion Thursday and is out indefinitely.
“When you take a guy like that out of your lineup, you’re going to miss something,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “We’ve talked about it before, when he’s been out of the lineup, the emotion that he brings, when he plays, the tenacity that he brings, a lot of times that becomes contagious to the group.”
=The Penguins have won four in a row and have a plus-9 goal differential (18-9) during that stretch. In their past 12 games, they’re 8-3-1. Their suddenly resurgent power play is 6 for 18 (33.3 percent) during the winning streak.
=They finished with 41 shots – the fifth time this season they’ve hit the 40-mark – which was their most since tallying 43 Jan. 30 at New Jersey.
=The Penguins practice Monday (11:30 a.m.) and Tuesday (10 a.m.) at Southpointe before flying to Colorado, where they play the Avalanche on Wednesday.
The West Coast swing – Colorado, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Anaheim – runs Wednesday through next Monday. Yohe will have you covered. (If we’re lucky, we’ll convince Josh to stop in Haight-Ashbury and soak in the scene.)
“It’s nice we have a couple days of practice now,” Winnik said. “I think we’ll get used to each other a little more. We have four games in the (next seven days).”
Be GRATEFUL to each other,