Penguins Room: DeSmith ‘Horrible Goal’, Zucker Likes Nylander
Casey DeSmith stopped 30 shots during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-1 victory against Philadelphia Saturday at PPG Paints Arena, including one that very possibly could have altered the course of the game during the third period.
But the one shot that eluded him — a Kiefer Bellows wrist shot from well above the right circle at 10:04 of the opening period — might stick with DeSmith longer than any of the others.
No matter how hard he tries to forget it.
“That was a horrible goal that I let in,” he said, smiling. “One of the worst I’ve let in in this league, probably. Obviously, I’d love to have it back. I’m just happy that I could answer and play the rest of the game solid.”
DeSmith did a lot more than that, including helping the Penguins get through a pair of third-period penalty-kills when their lead was 2-1.
The highlight was a stop on Owen Tippett, when DeSmith used his stick to swat out a shot that appeared destined for the back of the net.
“That was just pure reaction, trying to get something over there,” he said. “I got a little bit lucky. Right place at the right time.”
Which is to say, the antithesis of how things unfolded on the Flyers’ goal.
But even though DeSmith said that giving up a bad goal makes it tougher, not easier, to focus on the task at hand, he hit upon an approach that obviously paid off.
“Just try to forget about it,” DeSmith said. “Next-shot mentality.”
Which he seemed to have for every one the Flyers threw at him after Bellows’ goal.
Alex Nylander, on emergency recall from the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre, was plugged into a spot on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker, where Bryan Rust and Rickard Rakell have worked this season.
How long he’ll remain there isn’t clear, but he got another round of positive reviews from coach Mike Sullivan and at least one linemate.
“I like his game,” Zucker said. “He plays well. He does a lot of the little things really well. He’s obviously a really skilled player, but I think that, more than that, he does the little things really well. He makes little plays, little (plays along the boards). He’s not afraid to get into battles.”
Neither, of course, is Zucker. who gave the Penguins some badly needed breathing room when he scored his 23rd of the season with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining in regulation.
The only kind of game he knows how to play is high-energy and, while this was not the Pittsburgh Penguins’ most impressive performance of the season, Zucker suggested they put forth a respectable effort.
“I think we still have another level, but I thought it was pretty good,” he said.
Two days earlier, of course, the Penguins had seen a 3-1 lead over the New York Islanders in the third period deteriorate into a 4-3 overtime defeat, the ninth time this season they had lost a game they led after two periods.
“We played pretty well,” Zucker said. “But the way it ended obviously left a sour taste in our mouths.”
That memory still was fresh during the final period against the Flyers.
“We just wanted to make sure we stayed on our toes,” Zucker said. “I feel like the games when we’ve given up leads, we’ve kind of sat back and were trying to protect leads instead of still getting after them.”
Philadelphia pressed hard for a tying goal in the third period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t help themselves by taking a pair of minor penalties, but Mikael Granlund seemed satisfied with how they were able to protect the lead before he and Jake Guentzel scored in the final two minutes of regulation to remove any doubt about the outcome.
“We did a really good job in the third period,” Granlund said. “That was a good two points for us.”
He also gave a strong endorsement to Sullivan, who earned his 400th victory as an NHL head coach.
“He’s a great coach, obviously, (with) what he’s achieved here,” Granlund said. “You can tell right away the way he coaches, and the presence he has. I’m really glad to play for him.”
Casey is such a likable guy. Can’t help wanting to see him succeed. I always have a soft spot for the whipping boys. Gone through Matta, JJ, ZAR, Boyle, Simon to name a few. Always good teammates, not always the most skilled, but always gave an sffort.