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Penguins Room: Sullivan Proud; The ‘Swagger’ Is Back



Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pittsburgh Penguins locker room was just different. The smiles were beaming. The sense of accomplishment was eclipsed by the overflowing optimism. The Penguins found their swagger.

The Penguins played a different kind of game as they controlled the Washington Capitals 4-1 at Capital One Arena.

Read More: It’s Starting to Get Real. Penguins Beat Washington 4-1.

Remarkably, Sidney Crosby did not have a shot on goal, nor did Evgeni Malkin. Yet the Penguins led 2-0 by 11:03 of the first period. The Penguins forwards worked the low zone and the young defensemen got the goals.

Ryan Shea scored his first NHL goal, which was also his first NHL point. P.O Joseph scored his second goal of the season from nearly the same spot almost 10 minutes later.

The Penguins never trailed.

“Our goal was the same all year long. (The streak) hasn’t changed anything,” Joseph said. “Being being in this stretch right now, it’s fun and just having the swagger of the guys again and having fun with it — really by playing hockey again. (Playing) like you were, just like you are a kid.”

But the locker room scene was as much the story as the game. The dour and frustrated hues that had colored the walls for months were replaced with optimism. The tones that were hushed as players searched for answers were replaced by shining eyes and beaming smiles.

The Penguins are back in it.

“You know, we’ve tried to just stay in the moment and focus on that one game in front of us, and we’ll see where it takes us. But, we certainly (have) kind of got ourselves back into the fight,” said coach Mike Sullivan.

Indeed, the Penguins are back in the playoff fight. As their competition has stumbled, they have surged. It looks like Arnold Palmer on Sunday.

Penguins Locker Room

Mike Sullivan

Typically, we put Sullivan last in the locker room feature. However, take special note of his first answer. It’s not his usual tone or words. The coach was as close to jubilant as we’ve seen. His pride in the team swelled as he spoke.

“Couldn’t be happier for the players. You know, they’re having a lot of fun right now,” Sullivan said. “They’re competing. They’re battling hard. It’s not perfect, but I love our energy and enthusiasm and compete level. This is fun to watch.”


Sidney Crosby

To no surprise, the Penguins’ captain struck a modest tone. He quickly cautioned about celebrating the win or getting caught up in the emotion. It seemed Crosby’s attention was already turning toward the Tampa Bay Lightning, whom the Penguins face at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Seriously, who made this schedule?!

“(Closing on the teams ahead), it doesn’t really change (anything). I think as far as what we have to do, we’ve just got to continue to keep playing this way to give ourselves a chance,” Crosby said. “And, yeah, I think that’s that’s our approach. We can’t really dwell on the game. We’ve just got to move by it and get ready for the next one.”


Alex Nedeljkovic

Nedeljkovic has made seven straight starts and played in eight straight games. The Penguins have points in all seven of his starts, and had they not collapsed against Colorado and Columbus, they’d have seven wins, too.

However, those are bygones. Nedeljkovic made a few key saves, especially in the first 10 minutes to preserve the Penguins lead, thus allowing the Penguins to settle into the game. It’s also a lot easier to play with the lead.

Nedeljkovic had nothing but praise for the Penguins penalty kill, which was outstanding on the 5v3 for 1:53 in the third period. Washington scored in the seven seconds between the expiration of the two-man advantage and the power play, but he couldn’t say enough.

They probably feel the same. He’s backstopped the Penguins three-game winning streak and seven-game points streak.

“The guys in front of me, this whole trip, have been incredible. That was a tough back-to-back in New York and New Jersey,” Nedeljkovic said. “We beat one of the best teams, a top three team in the league in New York, in their barn. And we’ve got to get on the bus, then go to a new hotel, go play in New Jersey, a team that we’re fighting for points, that’s got a lot of firepower up front, got a lot of speed.

“They played fast, and we found a way to win in that game. We came back in the third period. Tonight, same thing … we just played an unbelievable game.”