Don’t sell these synergetic Penguins short ☕


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Penguins players pour off the bench to celebrate Brandon Tanev's game-winning goal. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Brandon Tanev isn't the first guy to win an NHL regular-season game with a short-handed goal in overtime. Heck, he isn't even the first member of the Penguins to do it.


He's the, uh, second.

Lanky fellow named Lemieux did it against Boston, a scant 24 seasons ago.

So yeah, stuff like this happens. Just not very much.

And even less frequently to clubs that dress 11 forwards, which the Penguins were forced to do when Jared McCann was deemed unable to play Wednesday because of an unspecified injury. After all, that occurs about as often as, well, teams score short-handed game-winners in overtime.

So yeah, there was a lot about the Penguins' 3-2 overtime victory against the Avalanche at PPG Paints Arena that defied precedent. And, on some levels, logic.

Didn't matter. For while these Penguin have had to strip-mine their farm team in Wilkes-Barre to fill out a lineup, that hasn't prevented them from winning four games in a row.

Now, it's not as if their roster would struggle to compete against a mid-level beer league squad. Hey, guys like Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel and Matt Murray, among others, have thrived at the most rarefied levels of the sport. Still, the number of people in the crowd of 18,458 who liked the Penguins' chances of claiming a second point when Brian Dumoulin was assessed a slashing minor at 2:38 of overtime could have carpooled home on a unicycle.

Colorado, after all, was the lone NHL club without a loss this season, and entered the game with a power play converting 27.3 percent of its chances. Give guys like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar and Gabriel Landeskog a man-advantage and the extra open ice that's available in overtime, and the only real question figures to be which of them will take the shot that ends the game.

That explains why, when Dumoulin -- who just happens to be one of their finest penalty-killers -- was sent to the box, his teammates figured the best-case scenario was to somehow get through the shorthanded situation, then try to snag the extra point in a shootout.

"I think there would have been 22 seconds left after we killed (Dumoulin's penalty)," Crosby said. "So part of me is thinking, maybe get ready for that 22 and see if we can make something happen after the kill. But yeah, you're more worried about getting the kill."

Well, Tanev rendered all of that moot when he threw the puck toward the Colorado net from inside the left circle and watched as it hit Landeskog's stick in the crease -- then bounded across the goal line before Landeskog could corral it.

"I just wanted to get one to the net," Tanev said. "I was fortunate to get a bounce."

True enough, but his first goal since joining the Penguins was a fair payoff for the three-plus periods of sweat equity Tanev had invested before scoring.

"He played a hell of a game," Mike Sullivan said. "His speed, I think, is so evident out there. ... He's physical. He's hard to play against. I think he gets under our opponents' skin. He's just a good player who relishes that role."

Truth be told, the Penguins have 20 guys who have embraced their current niche with this team, including the likes of Sam Lafferty, Adam Johnson and Joseph Blandisi. All three would be in Wilkes-Barre if not for the injuries that have sidelined so many Penguins forwards, but all three are playing as if they never want to cash another minor-league paycheck.

"They're all getting rewarded for their efforts," Sullivan said. "It's nice to see the team come together the way we have."

Fact is, this team has developed a synergy during the past week or so. The whole of the group is greater than the sum of its parts, including the replacement ones.

"In some ways, the young kids are helping our veteran guys by bringing energy and the juice," Sullivan said. "And our veteran guys, I think, are providing leadership for those guys, on how to play the right way. When we play the game the way we're playing it right now, I believe we have what it takes to beat anybody."

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