The New York Rangers scored three goals in under six minutes, and an early Pittsburgh Penguins lead was suddenly a two-goal deficit. Head coach Mike Sullivan quickly burned his only timeout after the Penguins yielded two goals in 24 seconds, and Sullivan changed the game.
The Penguins rallied for the third straight game for a 4-3 shootout win.
The analysis from another comeback win (PHN+)
Turning Point is a new feature we’re trying out. On Friday, the PHN Turning Point was easily the moment Sullivan called out his players for yet another several-minute stretch with multiple goals against.
Even after the game, Sullivan had a little edge when he discussed that timeout’s intent, which occurred just before the second period’s 6:00 minute mark.
“Yeah, well…I was certainly trying to elicit a certain response,” Sullivan said about the discussion in which he could be seen delivering a stern message. “I wanted us to have some pushback. It starts with our compete level. It’s a mindset. A will to win.”
In other words, after the fifth straight game in which the Pittsburgh Penguins took a nap during play, Sullivan had enough. Call it the riot act, a come to Jesus meeting, or a good old fashioned tongue lashing. In this case, the mask obscured Sullivan’s words, but his rigid body language and everyone’s complete attention made clear the message.
“(The mindset) was part of the discussion, but that’s just part of the emotion of the game.”
If you need further evidence that Sullivan’s speech was the turning point, check out the charts from NaturalStatTrick.com. Sullivan’s break came at the lowest point (the arrow points straight down, which was the third New York goal). Immediately following, all of the metrics instantly spike.
The Penguins owned more than 60% of the scoring chances in the second and third periods. The power play which achieved their second goal (an own goal by New York defenseman Ryan Lindgren) was on the board because they outworked New York in the offensive zone.
Jared McCann was credited with goal No. 2, but the Penguins kept working until Teddy Blueger finished a P-O Joseph rebound in the third period to tie the game.
The Penguins found their legs and earned two points, albeit in a shootout so New York also earned a point.
But just in case you thought the New York Rangers were pushovers or not a playoff team, Friday night should be a reminder that every team in the East Division is playoff-caliber. Perhaps it should remind the Pittsburgh Penguins, too, there will not be an easy game or any emotionless games against the Western Conference to gobble up points.
The Penguins will need their best game almost every night. Or, they’ll face a few more timeout speeches.