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Top 5 Penguins Locker Room Stories this Season

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby

It has been a refreshing change for media and, hopefully, fans alike. The NHL locker rooms opened this season after two seasons of awkward zoom calls or distant player interaction. The Pittsburgh Penguins have a few characters in the room, and the first few months of the 2022-23 NHL season have provided some great conversations, laughs, and a few frank admissions.

From Tristan Jarry to Jason Zucker talking about injuries and the mental toll to asking Marcus Pettersson what in the world he was thinking when he dropped the gloves with Nicolas Deslauriers, there have been some moments that brought fans and players closer together.

We’ve had some excellent locker room stories, and my list is subjective. These are the most read and impactful, but there have been some other moments, such as Casey DeSmith’s three-minute master glass on goalies knocking the nets off, Jason Zucker chirping Bryan Rust, and P.O Joseph admitting to us that he was sweating that final weekend of roster cuts.

Top 5 Pittsburgh Penguins Locker Room Stories

5. Evgeni Malkin, “My fault, 100%.”

It was the most honest admission of the season. Last Thursday, the Penguins lost their second game in five days to the Carolina Hurricanes. It was Malkin’s mistake to chase Carolina defenseman Jacob Slavin behind Carolina’s net that led to the game-deciding goal in OT.

Malkin didn’t back away from the mistake or include others. He owned it. Malkin’s words seemed to garner support and connection in the fanbase. It was the type of story that just wasn’t available during the pandemic.

Evgeni Malkin: “My fault.”

 

 

4. Tristan Jarry’s Ankle

It was one of those historic performances in Penguins’ history. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry started Game 7 against the New York Rangers in Round One with a badly injured ankle. The Penguins’ goalie situation deteriorated when third-goalie Louis Domingue struggled as the series progressed.

In May, PHN reported that Jarry fought to play in Game 6 and won the fight to start Game 7. A win would have etched him in Penguins’ history and broken the Penguins’ three-year string of first-round exits.

“I think that coming back for Game 7 was something I wanted to do,” Jarry said. “I wanted to give the team a chance, and I wanted to leave everything out there and try and make it to Round Two.”

Fluky moments in the final minutes, including Marcus Pettersson racing off the ice after his helmet was knocked off, allowed New York to tie the game late in the third period and win in OT.

Jarry walked out of the postgame presser with an icebag taped around his ankle. In training camp, he admitted played on an ankle that took months to heal.

It was worse than we thought: Tristan Jarry.

3. Jason Zucker Hated the Game

Zucker was miserable in 2021-22. He couldn’t shake a core muscle injury that robbed him of half the games and probably his best hockey. In the playoffs, the Penguins’ trainers used a special seat for Zucker on the bench to keep him in the lineup.

PHN asked him if he was having more fun this season, and we got a great answer.

“That’s for sure. Last year was a mental grind. It was. That was the toughest year of my career by a mile,” said Zucker on Nov. 14 after practice in Toronto. “It was something that I’m glad I went through. It gave me a new appreciation for the game. I hated the game last year. It was not fun. I didn’t enjoy it.”

From the darkness sprang the dawn. Zucker is playing his best hockey in several years. He has 21 points (6-15-21) in 29 games and has been impactful in all phases.

“I hated the game last year,”: Jason Zucker.

Marcus Pettersson Fight

The Penguins beat the hapless Philadelphia Flyers after Thanksgiving on Nov. 25. The Flyers are decimated but a physically tough team that doesn’t mind a good fight. Or three.

The Flyers’ fourth line features Zack MacEwen, proficient without the gloves, and heavyweight puncher Nic Deslauriers.

Deslauriers hit defenseman Kris Letang behind the Penguins net. The hit was unpenalized, though questionable. Letang fell to the ice for a moment, and Pettersson took a step toward Deslauriers.

There was no backing out. It was on.

Pettersson didn’t win the fight, but his teammates and coach appreciated his bravery and sticking up for Letang.

“We know what a pretty tough kid was on the other side. I just give him so much credit,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “It’s hard to articulate it for me. He’s just an unbelievable teammate.”

Pettersson had four fights in his first year with the Penguins, but the 6-foot-3, 177-pound defenseman hasn’t dropped the mitts in a couple of years, nor do many guys who are about 180-pounds fight stocky brawlers who make their living by fighting.

What was Pettersson thinking?

1. The Sidney Crosby & Evgeni Malkin roadshow

The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Florida Panthers in Florida, 4-3. The game-winner was courtesy of Malkin, but it hurt. He hugged the far post, and Crosby blasted a slapshot off his thigh. Malkin left the game and did not return. Crosby had a pretty big grin postgame. And the chirps began.

Crosby didn’t land a good zinger, but his ear-to-ear smile brought laughter.

“I guess If you’re going to get hit, get a goal out of it,” Crosby said.

A couple of days later, Malkin returned to practice in Carolina. He had a little fun at Crosby’s expense.

“I’m glad it was Crosby’s shot that hit me,” said Malkin with a laugh.

Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.