By: KDKA-TV News Staff
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Through the first five games of the 2021-22 NHL season, the Pittsburgh Penguins have yet to lose in regulation and currently sit second in the league in goals for, having scored 23 in just five games.
It's early, yes, but the Penguins are doing all of this without the services of Sidney Crosby, who is out after recovering from offseason wrist surgery, and Evgeni Malkin, who also required offseason knee surgery.
Meanwhile, Jeff Carter, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, and Bryan Rust have all missed games to start the year for various injuries as well as COVID-19 protocols.
While names like Drew O'Connor, Evan Rodrigues, Brock McGinn, and Danton Heinen have made positive contributions, the players credit the man behind the bench for the team's hot start.
"It's nice having trust in your coach," Rodrigues said. "When your coach trusts and believes in you, it gives you that extra confidence. I had a good first few years in Buffalo and since I've been traded here and had the chance to play and get regular minutes, I think I've gotten back to the game that made me successful and made me into an NHL player."
All of this coming on the heels of the Penguins stunning a fully healthy Toronto Maple Leafs squad that includes names such as Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, 7-1 on Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Despite their superstars, the Penguins have also managed to spoil the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on the NHL's opening night, which doubled as Tampa's banner-raising celebration, and a newly-rejuvenated Chicago Blackhawks.
"No one looks for excuses," Sullivan said following the Penguins' win over Toronto. "I think everyone rallies around it and tries to make a difference in the game. Different players step up at different times. For me, that's what brings teams together, that's what galvanizes groups."
Right now, Heinen, Rodrigues, and O'Connor all lead the team in scoring with identical stat lines of three goals, two assists, and five points.
The Pens will look to continue their unbeaten streak on Tuesday in an opening night rematch at PPG Paints Arena when the defending champion Lightning comes to town at 7:00 p.m.
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