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Penguins React: Sullivan Nearly Speechless After Victory, 6-goal Collapse

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Pittsburgh Penguins Mike Sullivan

The Pittsburgh Penguins scored seven goals and beat the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. The win put the Penguins within one point of both the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders for the MassMutual East Division lead. Evan Rodrigues and Jared McCann had two-point nights, and Jeff Carter scored his first goal as a Penguin.

The win also shrank the Penguins’ magic points number to 12, with 10 games remaining to eliminate the New York Rangers.

The above would be the highlights of the Penguins 7-6 win at PPG Paints Arena.

The other side of the story is the Pittsburgh Penguins gave up six goals in the third period, and an easy game became a nailbiter. The Penguins were within one save in the final seconds of blowing a 6-0 lead. The Penguins abandoned the system, their responsibilities, and goaltender Tristan Jarry served a couple of softies as the Penguins became the first team in NHL history to win a game in which they were outscored by five or more goals in the third period.

The previous 270 teams lost, according to ESPN Stats.

Those expecting Sullivan to storm the media room and flip tables, snarl, and command the gods of hellfire, were sorely disappointed.

Even Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was bewildered by what he just watched. Overwhelm with a side of disbelief garnished by relief.

Well…I’ve never been through an experience like that, so it’s…it’s not an easy one to react to. I’m not sure I have a valid answer for you. That’s what I told the players,” Sullivan said. “Not a lot went right for us. We certainly know that we’ve got to be a whole lot better in a lot of areas to close out games and not put ourselves in those types of positions, but I just told the players that it’s just something that I’m going to try to digest and see what we can take from it….but I don’t know how to react.”

All involved seemed to accept the win but did not have a good answer about what went wrong. The Penguins had a 6-0 lead, then got the Windows blue screen of death. Nothing went wrong. Then nothing went right.

The Penguins certainly found their offense, at least in the first two periods. Defenseman Mike Matheson was Paul Coffey incarnate in the first period. Evan Rodrigues looked like a top-line winger dishing the puck and putting it into the net.

The Penguins even had some good luck on the injury front. Defenseman Kris Letang appeared to be injured late in the second period when New Jersey grinder Nathan Bastian caught him in a vulnerable position and launched him into the boards.

The hit was legal, but Letang left the ice before the end of the period. However, he returned to play in the third period. With so much on the Penguins’ side, surely it was a good night.

It was until it wasn’t.

“Especially on the ice, the best thing you can do is don’t panic. We did have a cushion,” steady defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “We did have a lead, and when they started putting it to us, obviously they’re playing with nothing to lose. They had their D up and getting up in the rush to better drop the second wave.

And obviously, we have to hold onto the lead a little bit better.”

Understatement of the year?

Evan Rodrigues, who had a goal and assist, took a denial approach to the game.

“It’s two points at the end of the day, and at this time of the year, that’s all that matters,” Rodrigues said. “Obviously, you want a better third, but it’s two points, and we go forward.”

But is it really that simple? Every facet of the game collapsed from their new staples, goaltending, and defense to the speedy forwards.

Winning does soothe what would have been ruffled feelings: two points and a W.

“We just took our foot off the gas pedal. That was really it,” Rodrigues said, a matter of factly. “They have a lot of skill on that team, and we turned it into a run and gun game, and they start capitalizing. Yeah, it’s not something that you like to see happen, but it’s a bit of a wake-up call.”

The Pittsburgh Penguins hit the snooze button a few times on Tuesday night.

I don’t have an answer for you, you know, I don’t have an answer. I’m glad we won. These are important points. I thought we had a great start. I thought we played pretty well the first couple of periods,” Sullivan said. “There were a lot of things to like about it. You know, we didn’t play well in the third.”

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Todd Warren
Todd Warren
6 months ago

The Pens will be fine !! Tough to stay focused when up by 6 !!

They will respond with 60 minutes of Hockey on Thursday.

Chris D.
Chris D.
6 months ago

How about don’t take unnecessary penalties (Letang/Jarry), even when you’re up by six? Don’t get complacent, because friggin’ anything can happen. Even when the energy gets weird, try to stay grounded and focused. Know your opponent. That game was a great showcase of the Devils’ strengths, which means they’ll be easier to identify and combat. It’s fun to watch Jarry play the puck, but he’s going to get in trouble if he does it too much, and it’ll cost the Penguins a game. Thank goodness for Crosby! That guy is prescient.

Michael McCreary
Michael McCreary
6 months ago

They need to look at the defense. Kris Letang taking a stupid penalty late in the second. Then Jarry take one himself to make it 5 on 3 powerplay for New Jersey. Then Letang screwing up powerplay causing a short handed goal. The forwards not coming back to help on defense. But they won lucky a good teams find a way to win and the bad teams find a way to lose

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