Courtesy of Point Park University

No goals from big guns? No issue in 7-2 rout


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Patric Hornqvist. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Chances are that Sidney Crosby is going to score a goal one of these days. After all, he's done it occasionally over the years.

Jake Guentzel figures to get a few before winter has passed, too. Remember, he's the guy who racked up 40 of them last season.

And it probably isn't a reach to suggest that Alex Galchenyuk will deposit a puck or two behind opposing goalies in 2019-20.

None of those guys managed to score during the Penguins' 7-2 victory over the Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena Saturday night.

It didn't matter.

Fact is, it might even have been one of the most encouraging things -- and there were many -- for the Penguins about this game, because it showed they might not have to rely on a handful of guys to carry the offense.

Sure, the Penguins will count on the most prominent forwards on their payroll to generate goals. But they also appreciate that getting production from farther down the depth chart, like the two goals each that Jared McCann and Patric Hornqvist contributed, could have a profound and positive impact on how their season plays out.

The Penguins' other goals came from defensemen Marcus Pettersson and Kris Letang and checking-line center Teddy Blueger. While Letang has a pretty fair offensive pedigree, the other two bumped their carer totals to four and seven, respectively. It's safe to assume that Alex Ovechkin doesn't have nightmares about either of them challenging him for the Rocket Richard trophy.

Nonetheless, having a diversified offense is important, just like sound decision-making and playing with emotion.  The Penguins fell considerably short on both counts during a 3-1 loss to Buffalo in the season opener Thursday. Those failings helped to explain why they were guilty of 17 giveaways in that game. Against the Blue Jackets, they had two. So while their performance Saturday had some blemishes, it was a dramatic upgrade on the previous game.

The only major negative for the Penguins was that Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad left the game with undisclosed injuries.

"There are still some areas where we know we have to get better and we have to clean them up, but certainly, I thought the guys played hard," Mike Sullivan said.

That includes those high-profile forwards who didn't get a goal. Crosby set up two goals and fleshed out his personal linescore by fighting Pierre-Luc Dubois. Galchenyuk picked up two assists, as well, and Guentzel contributed one.

"They're going to get their points," Erik Gudbranson said. "(Crosby) is the best player in the world, accompanied by one of the best wingers in the world. They're going to score."

The Penguins will have to have goals from Crosby, Guentzel and Galchenyuk, but a more pressing need Saturday was simply to atone for their lifeless showing against the Sabres.

"Our first game was not good enough," Hornqvist said.

His team found its redemption in the guise of an opponent whose roster was gutted by free agency during the offseason. An opponent that had played -- and lost -- at home the previous night, then traveled here. An opponent that started its backup goalie, Elvis Merzlikins, who had never faced a shot in the NHL before the Penguins launched 40 at him.

For much of Thursday, the Penguins had looked like the kind of team that makes for a great Homecoming opponent. Against Merzlikins, they looked like the kind that could put a goaltender into intense psychotherapy.

After scoring just once in the first four periods of the season, the Penguins put five pucks behind Merzlikins in a span of 18 minutes, 13 seconds during the second. The first two of those, by Hornqvist and Pettersson, came 2:29 apart to stake the Penguins to a 2-0 lead.

"When you get those couple of quick goals, you just get confidence in the group," Hornqvist said. "When the goals started to come, we took a deep breath and relaxed a little more and played hockey. We know we have a good team."

No matter who is scoring the goals.

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