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Penguins Room: Slow Start for Team; Big Finish for McGinn?



Pittsburgh Penguins, Jason Zucker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Brock McGinn might have played his final game for the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night.

If so, he made sure that his last impression was a good one.

McGinn was put on waivers six hours before the Penguins’ 3-1 victory against Nashville at Bridgestone Arena, but then turned in one of his better performances of the season, highlighted by a critical assist that snapped a 26-game point-less streak.

McGinn, who declined to speak with reporters, finished with three hits and a blocked shot to go with his assist on Sidney Crosby’s goal 11 minutes into the third period, which countered one former Penguins center Mark Jankowski had scored for the Predators about four minutes earlier.

“I thought he played an unbelievable game, under really difficult circumstances,” Mike Sullivan said. “I think it just speaks volumes for the person (McGinn) is. That’s a difficult circumstance, not only for him, but for his teammates, as well. I thought they all handled it really professionally.

“(McGinn), in particular, played a strong game for us, and I know that (GM Ron Hextall) made that decision (to waive McGinn and Mark Friedman) to have roster flexibility around the next couple of days. These are really difficult decisions, but I thought he handled it extremely well.”

He went on to describe McGinn as a “one of those glue guys” who “just competes hard, is a solid two-way player.”

McGinn has 38 points in 124 games with the Penguins since they signed him as a free agent from Carolina, and his final point for them might have been one of his best, as he sprung Crosby behind the Nashville defense with a long lead pass.

That sequence ended when Crosby beat Predators goalie Juuse Saros from near the left hash mark after pulling in the feed from McGinn.

“He made an unbelievable pass,” Crosby said. “It was flat and right on the tape, and I had lots of time.”

McGinn will learn by 2 p.m. Wednesday, when his time of waivers will end, if he’ll have another opportunity to make a play like that as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Mike Sullivan

The Penguins were coming off an impressive showing in their 7-3 victory against Tampa Bay Sunday evening at PPG Paints Arena, but there wasn’t much of a carryover — if any — at the start of the game against the Predators.

Nashville’s Mikael Granlund got a breakaway 20 seconds into the game, and the Predators ran up a 14-4 edge in shots deep into those 20 minutes.

“We weren’t really pleased with the first period,” Sullivan said. “I thought we were loose. I thought we gave up a lot of chances. That wasn’t a game we wanted to put on the ice.”

The Penguins regained their equilibriums during the second and third, but still fell behind when Jankowski beat Tristan Jarry from close range after picking off an errant pass by Kris Letang.

“We give up a goal in the third period, but it didn’t rattle the bench,” Sullivan said. “We just kept playing and found a way to get that next goal.”

Thanks, in part, to that pass by Brock McGinn.

Jason Zucker

Sullivan and his assistants weren’t the only ones taken aback by the Pittsburgh Penguins’ sluggish start to the game.

“No explanation,” Jason Zucker said. “It wasn’t good. It just wasn’t our best.”

The final 40 minutes were better, and became good enough for the Penguins to claim two points when Zucker scored the game-winner from the inner edge of the right circle at 18:21.

And while the goal was unassisted, Zucker volunteered that the other forwards who were on with him at the time were responsible for making it happen.

“That was all (Rickard Rakell) and (Evgeni Malkin),” Zucker said. “They got in … too many times tonight, we were kind of throwing pucks away, kind of one-and-done plays. I think that when we held onto pucks, we were able to sustain some offense.

“On that one. it was a good forecheck. (Rakell and Malkin) both held onto pucks at some point there and it just kind of popped out. … Honestly, I didn’t even look at the net. I was just trying to get it on net, and it happened to go in.”

Tristan Jarry

There weren’t many people, including Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, who anticipated that Nashville would dominate play in the first period the way the Predators did.

Regardless, Jarry suggested that there’s never a guarantee about how a game will unfold.

“You never know what to expect in any game, whether we’re going to start good or whether it’s going to be in our own end for a little while,” he said. “You just have to be prepared for anything. Be prepared to have some shots and maybe not have some shots. Just being able to be prepared and ready for the unknown.”

After compelling Jarry to stop 17 shots in the opening period, the Pittsburgh Penguins held Nashville to just three during the final 20 minutes.

“They were awesome,” said Jarry, who finished with 24 saves. “They were keeping it in (Nashville’s) end. They weren’t giving them an opportunity to get it in our end. I think that’s what we were doing best, just making sure we were cycling the puck, making sure we’re blocking their entries and not letting them get pucks in our end. That’s when we’re at our best.”