Three Stars (Penguins vs. Capitals; Golden Knights vs. Avs)
1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights
With just two NHL games on Sunday, it’s lovely that we got a fairly neat-and-tidy theme in both Marc-Andre Fleury and his former team, the Penguins, enjoying success. Considering Fleury’s willingness to part with the Penguins during the Golden Knights’ expansion draft, it’s the sort of situation when exes can sincerely be happy for each other.
(Instead of liking photos while gritting one’s teeth.)
Perhaps the Penguins might find it relevant to the present, not just the past, that Marc-Andre Fleury is on fire? Why, just recently Bob McKenzie appeared on NBCSN to talk about some Penguins interest in Fleury …
At this rate, the Golden Knights would probably ask quite the ransom from the Penguins for Fleury.
For one thing, Tristan Jarry & Co. still haven’t been looking so great. While Jarry rebounded later on Sunday, it was still a rough one.
But beyond that, MAF has been lights-out. He pitched a 30-save shutout against the Avs, his second goose egg of a young season for the Golden Knights goalie. Fleury now has 63 career shutouts, and 473 wins. It will be interesting to see how many more W’s MAF can pile up … wherever he ends up tending net.
2. Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins
For all of the attention lavished on top Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (not to mention Alex Ovechkin of Sunday’s opponent, the Capitals), Rust probably deserves more credit. And so does Jake Guentzel.
Sure, both Guentzel and Rust benefit from frequently playing with Crosby and/or Malkin. Some might argue that royalties are owed.
Yet, as much as players get boosted by talent of the 87 and 71 varieties, not everyone can hang with them. When given the opportunity, Rust runs with it more often than not.
Last season, Rust generated an impressive 27 goals and 56 points in 55 games. With two goals and one assist on Sunday, Rust moved back to a point-per-game (precisely 13 in 13) this season. Even if you extract a “Crosby tax” of sorts, that’s impressive stuff.
Considering that Rust carries a modest $3.5M cap hit through next season, he’s one heck of a sneaky value for this team. (Maybe Pittsburgh would rather sign him to an extension during this upcoming offseason, then see Rust receive the wider praise he likely deserves.)
3. Sidney Crosby/Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Speaking of Crosby, we might as well acknowledge the combined efforts of his line with Rust and Guentzel.
Like Rust, Guentzel ended up with three points (1G, 2A), one more than Sidney Crosby (1G, 1A). Guentzel assisted on a Crosby empty-netter, downgrading their afternoons ever so slightly compared to that of Rust.
Either way, that trio was dominant on Sunday. With Malkin still struggling a bit to find his game, it’s crucial for the Penguins to reap the rewards from their top line.
And, while he didn’t score as much as Guentzel or Rust, Crosby was still a catalyst for this up-and-down Pens win.
I’ll tell you now, folks. Tune your eyes to 87 every time he steps on the ice. He’s in that mode right now where he’s seeing things no one else is, one of those special runs of form where there’s not much the opposing team can do about it except grow an extra brain.
— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) February 14, 2021
Capitals – Penguins, Avs – Golden Knights highlights
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Penguins outscored their problems (and the Capitals):
Yes, it was just 1-0, but there were some exciting highlights in the Golden Knights’ win over the Avs.
As tough as it is to believe, Sunday marked the first time the Penguins built a two-goal lead this season.
And at 4:38 pm on Feb. 14, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally take a two-goal lead in a hockey game.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) February 14, 2021
NHL scores: Penguins – Capitals; Golden Knights – Avs
Penguins 6, Capitals 3
Golden Knights 1, Avalanche 0
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.