The way Penguins coach Mike Johnston explained it, David Perron texted him sometime Sunday afternoon and said he was feeling better. Johnston told Perron, who was sick and missed Saturday’s game, to stop by his office when he arrived at Consol Energy Center.
“He said, ‘I can play. I know we’re going to be shorthanded. I’ll take five minutes, three minutes, whatever you can give me. But I think I can contribute tonight.’ ” Johnston explained in his postgame comments following a 3-2 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
“I said, ‘You better be able to if we’re going to dress you. You have to be able to contribute in some way’ He said he could.”
So Perron did. He played on a fourth line with Maxim Lapierre and Craig Adams, finishing with 10:06 of ice time and three shot attempts, one on goal. He nearly ended it late in regulation, too.
Then, of course, Perron beat Alex Stalock with a backhander in the first round of the shootout.
Hard to fathom earlier Sunday, when Johnston said Perron would “probably not” play after not taking part in an optional morning skate.
“I was wondering if I was going to sleep at night, and I slept the whole night again,” Perron said of Saturday into Sunday. “When I woke up, I felt a lot better. I stayed at my house, just to get more rest. That’s why I think everyone was pretty cautious about saying whether I would play or not. I got here. I’m glad I was able to play and get that shootout goal.”
=Because defenseman Kris Letang is out and the Penguins are hitting their heads on the salary cap, they played with five defensemen. Again. Here’s how the minutes broke down:
Ben Lovejoy 27:44
Paul Martin 27:25
Rob Scuderi 25:36
Ian Cole 25:05
Derrick Pouliot 18:21
I thought Cole was especially good, and I asked Johnston about it afterward.
“Our whole defense picked up their game,” Johnston said. “I thought Scuderi played one of his better games in the last month. I really liked his game. Lovejoy was excellent out there. Cole had a solid night.
“With guys stepping up in minutes – and Marty is Marty; he always plays the same, so we expect that out of him – I thought other guys stepped into new minutes … it’s tough playing (with) five (defensemen), and it’s tough playing against San Jose because they have speed, and they also move the puck east-west so quick. Makes it tough on coverage, tough on defensemen. They’re a challenging team to play with five D.”
=Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 of 32 shots to improve to 13-4-4 in 21 starts against Western Conference teams this season.
=The Penguins (42-23-11) are 25-4-3 when leading after the first period and 4-0-2 in their past six against the Sharks at home.
=Sunday marked their final game of the regular season against a Western Conference club. They finished with an 18-6-4 record against the West.
=The Sharks (37-30-9) have 83 points, seven behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild-card spot in the West. San Jose has made the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons, second in the NHL behind the Red Wings’ 23. The Penguins are third with eight consecutive seasons.
=How Patric Hornqvist’s goal happened: It came at 7:08 of the opening period. Daniel Winnik made a nifty play fishing out a puck from behind the Sharks’ net, and Hornqvist converted on a backhander for his 24th of the season and first since missing five games with an undisclosed injury. Hornqvist has nine goals and 13 points in his past 13 games.
=How Chris Kunitz’ goal happened. Came on the power play at 8:04 of the first and was his first tally in 15 games. Pouliot zipped a cross-ice pass to Sidney Crosby while falling over, and Crosby threaded a perfect pass to Kunitz, who shot the puck off Stalock.
Club is off Monday. Back at it for practice Tuesday.
Be GRATEFUL to each other,