PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan did not hold back. Still seething from the Penguins increasingly sloppy loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night which was decided by Dale Weiss’s third period shorthanded goal, Sullivan tore into his team’s cavalier attitude.
“We don’t have a conscience defensively on the ice when we’re on the power play. It’s just simply inexcusable,” glowered Sullivan when asked why the Penguins have been tagged for six short-handed goals already this season. “And we’ve talked about it and talked about it. It just can’t happen.”
In the locker room, Kris Letang took some of the blame, “I should have maybe been more cautious, maybe.”
Letang should be given high marks for owning his mistakes, he shouldn’t be saddled with the loss when the team was inexplicably inconsistent.
“It’s hard to win when your power play gives up a goal like that in a game like this,” Sullivan said.
In addition to the shortie which was the game-winner, the Penguins gave up at least two other breakaways. Overall, the Flyers scored on two of three breakaways.
“I think we didn’t have an awareness and we let people get behind us,” continued Sullivan and his blunt assessment. “Two of the breakaways are just a lack of awareness. One of the breakaways, we mismanaged the puck in a critical area of the rink.”
Sullivan also indirectly had strong words for players such as Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and perhaps Derick Brassard. Though in the interest of harmony, PHN won’t point out that Kessel went more than 160 minutes without a shot. His first shot was with three minutes remaining, Saturday night.
“Our fourth line has been really good, for sure. And I think (Crosby’s) line has been really good,” said Sullivan. “And we’ve got to find a way to get more production through the middle of the lineup.”
To be kind, since Kessel and Brassard were paired two games ago, they have disappeared from the score sheet. Brassard has created a little bit of offense with Zach Aston-Reese on the left wing. Aston-Reese had three shots and couple of scoring chances Saturday, but Kessel had none.
“Quite honestly, they haven’t gotten a lot (of chances) since they’ve been together. That’s something that the coaching staff has to look at,” said Sullivan before indirectly describing the abysmal play of the third line.
“At the end of the day, it boils down to cooperative play. In order to keep the puck in the offensive zone, you have to stay close, you have to support one another. You’ve got to be willing to stop on pucks. You’ve got to hang onto pucks when you have them. You’ve got to compete. You’ve got to compete. Shift in and shift out.”
Sullivan called the gritty compete level the evolution of the game. No longer are pretty plays, lateral slides the order of the day…which is directly contrary to the style of play some of his team chooses as a default setting.
“As a group, we’ve got to do a better job of supporting one another and staying close. And making sure we battle for one another.”
The Penguins are four points out of a playoff spot and there are four teams between the Penguins and the second wild-card spot, including rebuilding teams the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings.
“We beat ourselves,” Sullivan concluded.