Hornqvist’s double lifts Penguins
Patric Hornqvist loves nothing more than to park himself in front of the net and dare somebody to move him out of the way. The rugged forward has built a pretty healthy career out of going to the spots on the ice that are not for the meek.
And when it works — as it did in Pittsburgh’s 4-2 win over Nashville on Tuesday — Hornqvist can be the perfect complement to whatever line coach Mike Sullivan throws together on a given night. Reunited with Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary against the surging Predators, Hornqvist turned in a pair of goals that encapsulate what he does so well.
Hornqvist banked in a shot off Nashville’s Pekka Rinne to give the Penguins a two-goal lead in the second then added his second of the game just over five minutes later, lifting the stick of Predators defenseman Matt Irwin and flipping the puck by Rinne in one motion.
“He does what he does,” Sullivan said. “He’s our north/south guy. He plays in the battle areas. He goes to the net. ... He scores those greasy-type goals when he’s in tight.”
Hornqvist, Crosby and Sheary played brilliantly together last spring while helping the Penguins to a championship. Sullivan put them back together for Pittsburgh’s return from the All-Star break and the results were immediate. Hornqvist nearly scored on his first shift and never stopped coming.
“I think we play really well together,” said Hornqvist, who played his first six seasons in the NHL with Nashville before being shipped to Pittsburgh in 2014. “We know exactly where we are on the ice and we show that.”
Trevor Daley and Chris Kunitz also scored for Pittsburgh. Crosby picked up an assist on Hornqvist’s first goal for the 994th career point, and Matt Murray finished with 37 saves.
Calle Jarnkrok scored his eighth goal and Colin Wilson added his seventh for the Predators. Pekka Rinne made 35 saves, but the Penguins dominated the second period behind Hornqvist.
“The second period we were awful,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “We didn’t skate, we didn’t compete, it’s really where we lost the game.”
Pittsburgh went through a bit of a hiccup heading into the break, getting shut out at home against St. Louis and then falling 4-3 in Boston to fall a bit off the pace of front-running Washington in the hypercompetitive Metropolitan Division.
The Penguins returned home without center Evgeni Malkin, who missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury, but defenseman Kris Letang played a team-high 23:45 after sitting out six games with a lower-body injury of his own.