This was the game the Pittsburgh Penguins needed to win. The Penguins dominated the Edmonton Oilers last Saturday but scored only one goal and lost in OT. Monday night, the Penguins bombarded the Boston Bruins net and came back from the 3-0 deficit but lost 6-4 in regulation. Thursday night, the specter of four straight losses to the New York Islanders in Round One of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs hung over the Penguins but that’s when things changed. The Penguins rallied for an impressive 4-3 comeback win over New York at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
New York didn’t outwork the Penguins, but nor did New York put a skate wrong. The Penguins did make a few mistakes and it seemed each found the back of their net. New York led 3-0 after the first 30 minutes, and things looked eerily similar to last April. New York had won 10 games in a row, and 11 seemed assured.
Until head coach Mike Sullivan juggled the lines. It seems easy in retrospect, but Sullivan got McCann away from center Nick Bjugstad. Even though the pair arrived via police escort together last Feb. 1, they are not always a great pair on the ice. As he has done in his short Penguins tenure, McCann was sparked by playing in the top-six when Sullivan planted him beside all-world center Evgeni Malkin.
The other side of the Pittsburgh Penguins line with McCann and Malkin was Bryan Rust, who was perhaps the best Penguins player on the ice.
“They were dynamic in the third period. There’s a lot of speed on the wings there. I thought we got to the net better in the third period better than the first, two,” said Sullivan. “We talked about it the whole game, but I thought our guys were really committed to getting to the net in the offensive zone and trying to take the goalie’s sightlines away a little bit better.”