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Heinen, Kapanen shine as Penguins down Red Wings

The Pens ice a mostly NHL caliber roster, and take a big 5-1 win over Detroit

NHL: OCT 03 Preseason - Red Wings at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins amped up their lineup for Sunday’s home game against the Detroit Red Wings. The Pens played basically their entire healthy NHL team, minus a piece here or there — which would unfortunately include Jake Guentzel.

The visiting Red Wings, per the norm for NHL teams, didn’t bring as strong of a roster, but still had some decent players dressing. But the visitors were no match for the home team, as the Pens rolled to a 5-1 win in a game where Tristan Jarry played all 60 minutes and the bigger guns flexed their muscle.

Of course, and as always more important than the result in the preseason is how the individual performances went. Let’s look at a few of the storylines coming out of this game.

Jarry solid in a full 60. The microscope is going to be on Jarry this season in every performance, especially early on considering how dreadful his season ended. He was perfectly fine in this, his first complete game of the exhibition season of the year. Jarry stopped 25/26 shots from Detroit, giving up only a 3v5 goal against. The Pens iced a stronger team and a good defense, it wasn’t exactly a taxing game or one where Jarry had to steal anything, but a team always is going to need good, competent goaltending. Jarry came through in that regard today.

Heinen makes most of opportunity. With Guentzel being a late scratch for this game, Danton Heinen got a huge opportunity to to play in the top line spot vacated by No. 59. Heinen also got the chance to play with the top power play group for the day. Heinen scored a goal and recorded two assists.

Heinen is flying under the radar in an off-season where the perception is the Pens did “nothing”, but they did sign the 26-year old to a low risk contract. It’s not that long ago (2017-18) that Heinen scored 48 points in 77 games with Boston. He was the team’s first choice to replace Zach Aston-Reese when the forward got sick. Then Heinen was elevated again today with Guentzel out, and Heinen came through. That’s a great sign to see him moving around the lines and lineup, and also coming through. It’s certainly a note the Pens’ brass will file away that Heinen can be a valuable player to move around the lineup and help out in a variety of ways.

Kapanen continuing strong preseason. The star of the preseason so far is undoubtedly Kasperi Kapanen. Kapanen had an impressive and successful first season in Pittsburgh last year, but it looks like the team thinks they can get even more out of the speedy forward. Kapanen has been the only player to play in all three preseason games, and he stood out again in this one, notching two more goals.

Not much to the first goal, kinda a nothing shot that Alex Nedeljkovic lets in (Nedeljkovic allowed another soft goal to Jeff Carter as well in a shaky outing).

But the second is nicer, and it’s always nice to see a player’s confidence grow when he’s shooting the puck and getting rewarded by scoring.

BREAKAWAY SLAPSHOT GOAL! The ever-rare breakaway slapshot is a thing of beauty. Who can ever forget Evgeni Malkin absolutely booming one against the Flyers in the 2008 playoffs? Kris Letang stepped out of the box today and caught up with the puck and decided to fire away.

Gotta be a top-5 most exciting moment in NHL hockey to see a player wind up on the breakaway and go through with it.

Overall, it’s a 5-1 win so a coach is never going to be too unhappy with that. Sullivan sounded very pleased with what he saw, especially considering it was the first game of the season for so many key players.

“I liked our energy,” Sullivan said. “I liked our enthusiasm. I thought we were we were quick to pucks. I thought we were trying to play a speed game, and we think that’s when our team is at its best.”

The Pens have an off day tomorrow, and then play next on Tuesday when they will host Buffalo.