The Pittsburgh Penguins won their 24th game in 39 tries on Thursday night. After a sputtering start hampered by a lineup of spare parts, the team has won 14 of their last 16 games, including a 6-4 harrowing win over the Ottawa Senators at PPG Paints Arena.
The healthier the Penguins get, the more inconsistent they’ve become. They survived a bad first period and a sloppy third period on Thursday night. The Penguins gave up 22 shots in the first period and seven high-danger chances.
They also scored three goals and earned five high-danger chances.
The Penguins have allowed 40 or more shots in three of the last four games. They’ve nearly squandered significant third period leads twice this month (Jan. 2 vs. San Jose Sharks. A 6-1 lead became a 6-5 game in the third period, and an 8-5 win).
That’s part of the roller coaster the Penguins have been riding. Head coach Mike Sullivan thought the first period was their worst. He wasn’t angry-Sullivan, but he did call out his team’s continued sloppy game.
“When we don’t play the game with collective effort, with attention to detail and sufficient structure, then I think we give up shots, we give up chances, we spend more time in our end,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “…We don’t create as much offense through our defense. And I think that’s been the case in the last, you know, 10 days or so. We’ve had moments, we’ve had games, the last two periods in Vegas that we loved, but we’ve got to do it more consistently. We’ve got to bring it more consistently.”
“…We will have that discussion with the players. At the end of the day, it boils down to commitment and attention to detail. We are going to practice these things daily, so that they become habitual,” Sullivan said.
The Penguins will also practice Saturday after back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday, and a game coming on Sunday. Yes, Sullivan is serious, even if he wasn’t viscerally angry on Thursday night.
It hasn’t been a lack of effort, but the Penguins have lacked many other things.