The Pittsburgh Penguins certainly talked about it at the time. The numbers support it. They seemed to flip a switch during the third period of a Nov. 16 game at home against the Buffalo Sabres.
So after the team practiced Thursday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, PHN asked about that with the Sabres returning Friday.
And … crickets.
“You’re taxing my memory,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
The Pittsburgh Penguins did not win that game, falling 2-1, but they outshot the Sabres 20-3 in the third and picked up their only goal, on a power play by Jake Guentzel.
Dustin Tokarski’s performance in the Buffalo goal no doubt cost the Penguins at least a point that night, but they talked for a couple days afterward about finding their game in that third period and wanting to play the same way moving forward.
That was the Penguins’ third straight loss, but since that night they are 10-2-1, including two five-game winning streaks, one right after that game and their current one going into Friday’s rematch with the Sabres.
Still, Sullivan struggled to uncover the details in his memory bank.
“Thirteen games ago was an eternity,” he said. “I know we put a lot of shots on goal. … I think Tokarski had a terrific night for Buffalo.”
In our experience, hockey players and coaches – for that matter, athletes and coaches across the sports spectrum – often have sharp recall of various games and situations, particularly when something significant happens, such as the strong third period and that night against the Sabres and the apparent carryover.
Yet when PHN aske Penguins defenseman John Marino the same question about that night, he also stumbled some. OK, he basically tap-danced.
Marino did allow, though, that it is possible for a team to flip a switch at times.
As for the details, “That was a long time ago,” Marino said.
Trust us when we tell you that it was a significant moment in the season so far, one that could come up in any season review down the road.
In the immediacy after that Nov. 16 game against Buffalo, Pittsburgh Penguins center Jeff Carter, while acknowledging the strong third, admonished the club, said the players needed to look in the mirror and promised there would be things (which he did not divulge) to talk about in the locker room.
Whether it was his words, something else said by a player or coach behind closed doors or simply a light that went off, something sparked the Penguins coming out of that game.