Bryan Rust scored two goals in the latest showcase of his red hot run, but his recent scoring touch is still a long way off from the best part of his game.
In the modern game of hockey, few things can outweigh hustle and speed mixed with sheer determination. Rust plays the game as the embodiment of those attributes.
So, when he took the ice in the final minute of play and got pinned deep in the attacking zone with the Wild rushing for a last second chance, it was inevitable Rust would get back to be involved in the final defensive stand.
With Rust sitting on two goals and a chance at a hat trick, Sidney Crosby attempted to force the puck in to his winger. The problem was that he was being tracked by two Wild defenders and was in an easily defendable perimeter position. This wasn't a cycling attempt, playing for possession and to run the clock to zero and another Penguins' win. It was very much force the puck to Rust for more hats.
Rust wisely didn't shoot from his bad angle and instead sent the puck back toward Crosby. The Wild gained possession and went the length of the ice for a final scoring chance.
As the play developed, Rust found himself pinned by Zach Parise and took several seconds to find his way loose and to his skates. In typical Rust fashion, he took off up the ice, into the defensive zone and flung his body across the crease to thwart as much of the Wild's final rush as possible.
He wasn't needed as time expired as he slid, but it showed where Rust's value comes from. And ... he still blocked the final attempt whether the final buzzer rang or not.
The image above of a pinned Rust sums up the time between seeing him go down and seeing him pump the legs before sliding across the ice.
Yes, he's now a double digit goal scorer when I was just writing about him kneeling in disappointment of being unable to convert into an empty cage and sitting on a single goal. Those nine came quick.
But playing 200-feet of hockey and killing penalties will likely always outweigh Rust's ability to convert his shots to goals when playing with Crosby. And why he will always get a chance to play out of a scoring slump.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
[caption id="attachment_742422" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Penguins vs. Wild, PPG Paints Arena, Dec. 20, 2018 - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]