Penguins Room: Sullivan Differs From Players After Inexplicable Loss
ELMONT, N.Y. — The sounds outside the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room immediately following their squandered domination and two-goal lead were not pleasant.
Despite a lopsided 40 minutes in the Penguins’ favor, including a 37-17 shot advantage, they lost to the New York Islanders 5-4 at UBS Arena. The Penguins and Islanders are now tied in the standings with 63 points and each in a wild card spot, but the Penguins have four games in hand.
Get Dave Molinari’s Penguins recap.
Heads hung in the locker room. Some looked forward, almost in disbelief.
Yet the Penguins’ locker room differed from their head coach. The players were not pleased, and some seemed downright dejected.
However, coach Mike Sullivan was surprisingly not upset.
In fact, he liked his team’s pushback in the third period. He felt they deserved better and cited a couple of fluky goals. And there was the almost silly first-period goal as a brilliant save by DeSmith became an Islanders goal.
It was that kind of night.
“I thought for the majority of the night, our team was terrific. You know, I thought we had a really good first period. We had a really strong second period,” Sullivan said. “They got a couple of opportunistic goals in the second period, and it gave them life. I thought we had we had tonnes of energy. I thought we were playing with the right intentions out there.”
After DeSmith bailed out defenseman Marcus Pettersson whose giveaway set up the Islanders’ chances in the slot, the puck came to rest on top of the flat DeSmith. The goalie thought the puck was beneath him.
Nope. It was on top of him.
Anders Lee cleanly swept it off DeSmith into the net. No divot.
Pittsburgh Penguins Locker Room
The Penguins backup goalie made a career-high eighth consecutive start. DeSmith was alternately outstanding and shaky, though he allowed a couple of stoppable goals, including a pair late in the second period.
Brock Nelson went wide and pulled DeSmith out of position. DeSmith couldn’t get back to the far post, and Nelson beat him with a wraparound.
In the final 30 seconds of the second period, DeSmith made a blocker save on Mathew Barzal but blocked the puck forward into Anders Lee. The puck caromed off Lee and behind DeSmith.
DeSmith stopped 23 of 28.
Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin slapped the ice in disgust after the Islanders scored the game-winning goal by Zach Parise. Dumoulin went to the corner to play the puck, but Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri grabbed Dumoulin and pulled him away from the puck.
It was one of those hockey things. In the first two periods, it’s a clear penalty. Late in the game? The veteran winger took a calculated risk it wouldn’t be called and was rewarded.
With the whistles in the shirt pocket and the loose puck on Parise’s stick, he had a clean look from 10 feet. Game, set, match.
“I mean, yeah, I don’t want to say anything about it. It’s frustrating,” Dumoulin said. “I was trying to make a play on the puck, but I didn’t think I was able to. Unfortunate.”
The Penguins coach did not breathe fire or have a dour look. Sullivan seemed like a coach who knew his team deserved to win, but perhaps a fluky goal or a couple of bad goals sunk his team.
Sullivan instead noted Evgeni Malkin quickly losing the neutral zone faceoff, which led to the dump-in and the fateful corner tug by Palmeiri on Dumoulin.
“They got some life on a couple of the goals in the second period. They’re a good hockey team. They’re going to push as well,” said Sullivan. “They had their moments in the third. We had our moments in the third. The game-winning goal is unfortunate — off a lost faceoff in the neutral zone. It shouldn’t happen. We got to be better in that area of the game.”
The Penguins coach confirmed that he liked his team’s pushback in the third period and didn’t toss his goalie under the bus.