The Pittsburgh Penguins were disorganized like a preschool play and flat on Thursday in Los Angeles and Saturday in San Jose. It looked like more of the same on Monday when the Penguins spotted the Vegas Golden Knights a three-goal lead in the first period.
Perhaps head coach Mike Sullivan fired up his team in the first intermission not by flipping tables but by showing them the Twitter reaction to their play.
“We had a short conversation. That conversation is between me and the players, but I thought the players themselves–they took charge from the drop of the puck in the second period…,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
Short conversation. Uh huh.
The Penguins stormed the fortresses in the second period. And in the first few minutes of the third. The Penguins surprisingly reeled off five straight goals, including two by Jason Zucker and an empty netter by Sidney Crosby in a 5-3 win at T-Mobile Arena.
The Penguins were bad in the first period. Like their last two games, bad is putting it gently. Vegas scored the first three goals, and not even goalie Tristan Jarry was sharp. He had to grind it out with a little help from his friends for his 19th win. The team probably owes him a few more, too.
The turning point?
“Yeah, after the first period, when we got our sh*t together,” Jeff Carter laughed.
The chalkboard was as Jekyll and Hyde as was the team’s efforts. The Penguins didn’t need a chalkboard in the first period, but Vegas didn’t need a chalkboard in the second. The teams traded flat periods with little emotion and sluggish movement.
The Penguins game still doesn’t resemble the symphony of movement and precision during their 10-game winning streak, but an energetic win is never a bad thing.
The Penguins played a gritty game near the net. The results speak for themselves. If you can’t play a perfect game, a grimy net game is a suitable replacement.
But what the Penguins did in the second and third periods was significant beyond the net-front chances, especially given their precarious play over the past three games. You probably noticed the puck pressure, but the defensemen played a key role in expanding the ice. We have some wildly varying grades, too.