Penguins Room: Sullivan Calls Loss ‘Tough to Swallow’
Wednesday, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan called the previous two games against the New York Islanders “learning experiences.” He admitted there were plenty of things his team could do differently, including game management.
They did that well against the Islanders for most of Thursday evening at PPG Paints Arena.
Not quite enough to avoid a disheartening 4-3 overtime loss, however, as the Islanders scored two goals in the final six minutes of regulation to extend the game beyond the third period, and Brock Nelson gave New York the victory by beating Tristan Jarry on a breakaway at 2:13 of the extra period.
It was the Penguins’ third consecutive loss to the Islanders in which New York overcame a deficit during the third period, as New York swept a season series from the Penguins for the first time in franchise history.
The Penguins actually played pretty well — at even-strength, anyway — and their 36-28 advantage in shots was a reasonable reflection of how the game played out.
If anything, though, that made it even more difficult to accept when the Islanders were able to leave the arena with a couple of points that the Penguins seemed likely to claim for much of the evening.
“It’s tough to swallow,” Sullivan said. “It stinks … for the majority of the night, we were the better team.”
Tristan Jarry cited “puck management” issues in the third period as a significant factor in the Penguins’ defeat, and noted that the Islanders have proven how opportunistic they can be.
“They play a hard defensive game,” Jarry said. “We can’t make mistakes. That’s what they try to capitalize on, and they’re good at it.”
The Penguins were done in, in large part, by two players who tormented them all season.
Anders Lee scored New York’s first goal and the one that forced overtime, while Brock Nelson got the game-winner.
“They’re good players,” Jarry said. “They go to the net hard and they occupy a lot of space around the blue paint. That’s the toughest spot to defend in the NHL nowadays. You see a lot of goals being scored there.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins took two unnecessary penalties during the third period while holding a 3-1 lead — Jan Rutta went for elbowing at 3:39 and Drew O’Connor for hooking at 9:47 — and while the Islanders didn’t score on either, they did generate some momentum that likely contributed to their late-game surge.
“They got some momentum on it,” Jeff Petry said. “We did a good job killing them off, but we were rolling the lines early in the game and we were able to dictate the pace … Being shorthanded kind of changes that rhythm.”
Of course, the Islanders made a habit of overcoming third-period deficits en route to defeating the Penguins this season.
“We deserved better in some of the games we’ve played against them,” Petry said. “I thought that for the majority of that game, we dictated the pace, controlled the play.”
Because of how well the Pittsburgh Penguins played for most of the game, regardless of the outcome, Petry believes there is reason to believe they can fare well during the remainder of their schedule.
“Obviously, we all want the results to be there,” he said. “But if we play games like we did tonight, coming down the stretch, we’re going to win a lot of games if we play that way consistently.”
There was, Jason Zucker said, no mystery about when this game started to get away from the Pittsburgh Penguins:
“When they scored their second goal,” he said.
That would be the one Hudson Fasching got from in front of the net at 14:31 of the third period to cut the Penguins’ lead to 3-2.
Fasching’s goal was the first of three in a row the Islanders scored in short order to give the Penguins a gut-punch of a defeat.
They don’t have much time to dwell on it, however, as they have two games at home against Metropolitan Division opponents this weekend as they try to, at the very least, hold on to the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff field.
“We’ve got a ton of huge games here down the stretch that are division games, conference games,” Zucker said. “All of the above. We have to be better. We have to be able to push it.”