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Drive to the Net: First line comes together


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Sidney Crosby passes to Jake Guentzel for the game-winning goal on Thursday. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

You asked, we listened: More Dominik Simon analysis stories.

Okay, not really. But that's where this one begins.

The Penguins' game-winning goal on Thursday night was a thing of beauty, and a great example of what the top line of Jake GuentzelSidney Crosby, and Simon is capable of when they put their strengths together.

Let's break it down.

The play begins in the Penguins' defensive zone after the Ducks dumped the puck in. Matt Murray sends the puck into the corner, where it bounces off Nick Ritchie's skate and Crosby's leg to Ondrej Kase:

Kase gets tied up with Crosby and Simon, and Simon recovers the loose puck:

"We were breaking the puck out from our zone and there was a battle," Simon told me after. "That was a normal play that happened, sometimes we win the battle there on the boards."

Simon immediately passes the puck to Crosby, who strong-arms his way through the neutral zone and drives to the net. Guentzel sees Crosby start to come up the right side of the ice, and starts shifting over to the left side through the slot:

"Sid took like three guys on his back," Simon told me afterwards.

"I'm just trying to get there," Guentzel said of his move through the slot. "(Crosby) had the guy wide, we've had a couple like that before where he goes through the slot, and I was just lucky to be there at the right time."

Simon ties up defenseman Hampus Lindholm to create a passing lane, which Crosby uses to backhand the puck straight to Guentzel, who puts it in the back of the net on a one-timer:

"I just went to the net and tried to tie up some sticks and stuff," Simon told me. "Then Guentz just put it in."

"(Simon) won the battle in the defensive zone and boxed (Lindholm) out, took his stick," Guentzel said of Simon's work on the play. He should get a lot of credit for that too."

All together, that looks like this:

That's an example of Simon doing the "little things" right that make things easier for his linemates, that's an example of Crosby being the stiffest guy in the league on pucks and the playmaker he is, and that's an example of Guentzel's finishing ability that had him leading the team in goal-scoring last season. That's how this is supposed to work.

These are things that all three of these guys have been doing all season so far, but this was the first time that all three were directly rewarded on the scoresheet for their efforts.

The secondary assist was Simon's first point on the season, a rewarding feeling after what he's been doing through these four games, going to the dirty areas to tie up opposing players and create passing lanes or recover pucks.

"It feels great," Simon told me after. "Obviously to play hard, sometimes it's exhausting. If you get the points back, it feels really good. But the main point is to help the team win, so I'm glad that we've done it."

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