Anthony Angello made his long-awaited NHL debut in Friday's 4-3 overtime win over the Flyers.
Angello, a second-year pro, has been waiting for this day for a long time.
"I definitely had butterflies," Angello told me after the game. "I'd probably say for warmups and the first couple of shifts there. Once I got settled in, it's the same game of hockey. I tried to do my part, have an impact, do as much as I possibly could and let the rest take care of itself."
To get rid of those butterflies, it helped to try to put things in perspective.
"I got some pretty good advice from my mental coach saying it's the same sheet of ice, same game of hockey, same rules," Angello said. "It's just a bigger audience. Just relax, have fun, and enjoy it."
The Penguins players let Angello take the customary rookie lap in warmups, and he was able to step onto NHL ice for the first time for a regular season game and really take in the moment.
— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) January 31, 2020
"That was pretty cool," he said. "My dad wanted me to make sure I took a look around and take it all in. It was nice to get a couple of laps, hear everyone cheer. It was a privilege and quite the honor to be able to put this jersey over my head for the first time."
Angello said it wasn't until that rookie lap that it really set in that he was an NHL player now, and that he was able to settle down mentally by the second period.
Angello had 16 friends and family members in attendance for the game, many of whom were sporting Angello's jerseys from throughout his career. Some wore No. 57 Pittsburgh jerseys. One wore Angello's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton jersey, another had a jersey from his time at Cornell University, and two had Angello's jersey from the USHL's Omaha Lancers.
"It was awesome," Angello said of being able to have that many people make it to Pittsburgh to support him. "I'm really glad that (the Penguins) helped make that whole thing happen. ... I'm really happy they could all be here."
Angello played 4:13 in the win, skating on the fourth line alongside Andrew Agozzino and Alex Galchenyuk. He and his line didn't produce any points or shots on goal (they weren't on the ice for any offensive zone faceoffs) and Angello blocked one shot.
AROUND THE RINK
• The Penguins wore their white road jerseys to allow the Flyers to wear their black alternates, leading to some fan chatter on whether teams should regularly wear dark uniforms at home, or white uniforms as used to be the case in the past. If you ask me, I like what the AHL does: White jerseys at home in the first half of the season, then a switch to dark jerseys in the second half.
• The Penguins paid tribute to Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the seven other victims of the helicopter crash before the anthem with a moment of silence (that people actually stayed silent for). More on that here. The PPG Paints Arena signage was also lit up in Lakers colors, purple and gold, a nice subtle touch:
[caption id="attachment_955394" align="aligncenter" width="640"] PPG Paints Arena lit up in Lakers colors for Kobe Bryant. -- TAYLOR HAASE / DKPS[/caption]
• The Penguins celebrated Black Hockey History Day, a day aimed at increasing the representation of black athletes (and fans!) in the sport. The Black Hockey History mobile museum, which celebrates the accomplishments of NHL players like Willie O'Ree and Trevor Daley, and women's players like Blake Bolden and Sarah Nurse, was parked outside of the arena for fans to experience.
The Penguins also hosted the Black Girl Hockey Club (a group that despite the name, includes both men and women, and non-black allies who are looking to grow the game) in a suite, gave them a tour of the arena in the morning and a meet-and-greet with some players after the game. The club also met with local children earlier in the day:
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 1, 2020
• At the first television timeout, the Penguins put an "Oskar Strong" message on the video board for Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom, who is currently battling Ewing's sarcoma. Before the game, some players wore shirts with the same message:
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 31, 2020
• Chad Ruhwedel was absent for the first few minutes of the third period for an unknown reason. Justin Schultz played with Jack Johnson in his absence.
BEHIND THE SCENES
• Jake Guentzel was outside of the locker room after the game still wearing a sling.
• Crosby had the MVP of the game award, the firefighter helmet, in his stall after the game. Not exactly a tough decision there.
• There was a group of about 15 guys dressed in actual penguin costumes in the lower bowl of the stands. After the game I saw them all by themselves, still in full costume, dancing in a circle in the rain outside of the arena. The Penguins announced after the game that they were Sidney Crosby's friends from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
BY THE NUMBERS
• In five-on-five, the Penguins only attempted five shots in the third period, while the Flyers attempted 26. The Penguins were outshot 17-4 in that time.
• Dominik Simon led with three takeaways. No other Penguin had more than one.
• Three players -- Brandon Tanev, Zach Aston-Reese, and Patric Hornqvist -- each had four hits.
• Bryan Rust is averaging .59 goals per game, the highest average on the team. The last time a Penguins player finished a season with a better goals per game rate was when Evgeni Malkin averaged .67 goals per game in the 2011-12 season, when he scored 50 goals in 75 games. Malkin was an All-Star and won the Art Ross, Ted Lindsay, Hart that year.
• Kris Letang's power-play goal moved him into sole possession of first place of the Penguins' all-time power play goals scored by a defenseman list, with 41. Paul Coffey ranks second with 40, followed by Sergei Gonchar with 37, and Randy Carlyle with 28.
• Crosby's overtime goal was the 16th overtime goal of his career.
• Malkin surpassed former Sabres, Canucks, Maple Leafs, and Devils forward Alexander Mogilny for the the third most career multi-point games among Russian NHL players, with 287. Alex Ovechkin ranks first with 357, and Sergei Fedorov ranks second with 315.
THEY SAID IT
• Crosby: "It was just a tight game. Both teams weren't giving up a ton, I think the shots were 3-3 after the first, something around there. Both teams were playing tight and difficult to play against. I think we were guilty of sitting back, but I thought our mentality in the first two periods definitely was in the right place."
• Mike Sullivan: “(Jarry) made some real big saves for us, especially in the last 10 minutes of the period that gave us an opportunity to get to overtime. That’s what he’s been doing for us. It’s hard to win in this league when you don’t get that timely save, and he made a number of them in the third period for us.”
• Schultz: "Everything was a little rusty, but I thought once I got into it, it was pretty good."
THE OTHER SIDE
• Head coach Alain Vigneault: "I liked our 5-on-5 game tonight. Thought we got better, and our execution got better, as the game went on, both defensively and offensively. Against a pretty good hockey team, we've played five pretty good periods of hockey. Now we got a point tonight."
• Forward Tyler Pitlick: "Obviously, you want to get two points. It is what it is. I thought we had a good effort. We played really well in the third period. Most of the game, played a simple game. Didn't have a lot of turnovers or anything like that. So I thought we had a good effort."
• Goaltender Brian Elliott on the game-winner: "(Crosby) just kind of came around the corner. ... Just made a good shot. Usually when you lose possession, you either have to make a big save or you have to have guys make a good play, and I didn't come up with one there."
• Forward Jakub Voracek scored the lone goal of the first period. He has more goals (23) and points (43) in 43 games against the Penguins than any other team in NHL career.
• The overtime point tied the Flyers with the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
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