Forward Jared McCann has been with the Pittsburgh Penguins less than a month since being acquired from Florida in a trade. The 22-year-old has been a ball of upbeat energy. He probably had not been through a loss with his new club as frustrating as Thursday’s 4-0 debacle against San Jose, so his take on what he saw from his new teammates offered a bit of a different perspective from some of his teammates.
“I saw compete, and I saw guys giving a shit,” McCann told Pittsburgh Hockey Now exclusively. “That’s what hockey’s about. Sometimes you’re going to get in situations like that, but I’m happy the way our team responded. Looking forward, that’s a good sign.”
Some of McCann’s teammates had a hard time looking past the frustration as well as he did. That’s probably understandable after the Penguins fell behind 3-0 in the first period, gave up three power-play goals and their NHL-worst 13th shorthanded goal and missed a few golden opportunities.
“You know what? We spotted them that lead, and, obviously a team like that you can’t give them three early on in a game,” veteran forward Matt Cullen said of the Sharks, one of the top teams in the West. “It’s awfully difficult to come back. We created opportunities, but this time of year you just can’t afford to give up three in the first like that.
“The intensity level (this late in the season) is higher, and the importance of the game is higher, so it’s frustrating when you let one get away in a game that we feel like if we play the right way we give ourselves a chance to win.”
The Penguins had several key chances that were thwarted. Among them were a shorthanded breakaway by Cullen when the puck rolled off his stick; and a breakaway for Evgeni Malkin coming out of the penalty box, but he was stopped by Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.
Team captain and leading scorer Sidney Crosby, who had his six-game point streak end, also had a couple prime chances, including a two-on-one with Jake Guentzel when Jones made a pad save on Crosby; and a Crosby shot that was stopped by Jones after Crosby, during a power play, darted from behind the San Jose net, lifted the stick of a Sharks player in the slot and stole the puck for a quick shot.
“We gave up one in the first minute there and they scored another couple quick ones,” Crosby said. “We were down pretty early, but we still had some chances to get back in it, through the second and the third. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that first one to get us going and get us back in it.”
PHN asked Cullen if there was some sort of explanation for some of the missed chances – bad ice, gripping the sticks a little too tightly?
“I don’t know,” he said. “We had a lot of near-misses. It could have been a very different game. I guess that goes into the frustration a little bit, too. We probably gave ourselves enough opportunities to get back into the game at least. Whatever it was – pucks bouncing over your sticks or just not converting on chances or finishing plays…”
Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith, who gave up four goals on 33 shots, had his moments of bad luck, bad something, too. Twice on goals he was down on the ice and out of position after getting tangled with a defenseman.
“I wish we were able to bury some of (the chances) and make a little bit more of a comeback, but obviously getting down early was not ideal,” DeSmith said. “And then we put together two better periods, and gave up one late, five-on-three, nonsense penalties. Playing the last two periods basically 0-0, and we had some good chances, it was a good way to fight back.”
Fighting back came literally, as there were a series of scrums and penalties with 4:36 left in regulation – and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan got ejected. Crosby was one of four players who got a 10-minute misconduct.
DeSmith could only watch, but he didn’t wince.
“It was frustration,” DeSmith said. “Their guys were doing stuff to them. If they don’t like it, they have every right to go after them. Late in a game like that, those situations kind of happen, especially when frustration’s going to go up. No one got hurt. Move on to the next one.”