Mike Johnston didn’t mince words.
Whether it was Derrick Pouliot, Steve Downie or his team’s performance during a 6-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers at Consol Energy Center on Thursday, the Penguins head coach said what was on his mind postgame.
“I didn’t like the game tonight, for sure,” Johnston said. “I didn’t like a lot of parts of the game. Certainly individuals I thought were really casual.”
Then again, saying you didn’t like something when that something was squandering a 4-0 lead to the second-worst team in the NHL isn’t exactly taking a gigantic leap.
The Oilers stink, and the Penguins nearly blew this one.
A big reason could have been Pouliot, who followed his best game as a pro Monday in San Jose with easily his worst one.
Johnston, remember, coached Pouliot in junior. Here’s his answer when Trib Total Media’s Rob Rossi asked about how to build off of this one with the young defenseman.
“I do know him well, so I know how to handle him. Usually with players like that, you have to be careful at this level because the reason he plays well is because he plays with confidence. You don’t want him to lose his confidence, but he has to recognize consequences in his game.
“Tonight, where he got himself into trouble was when there were people around him; all he had to do was move the puck, punch it away and get it beyond the traffic. He didn’t do that, and that’s where Derrick gets himself into trouble.
“For him it’s a learning experience. I talked to Gary (Agnew) on the bench. We sat him for a few shifts, and we threw him back out into the action. I think that’s the only way to really develop some young players — to make sure they understand what you’re saying, then you allow them an opportunity to try and correct it.”
Another who drew Johnston’s wrath was Downie, whose penchant for taking third-period penalties has frustrated management. Now, add the head coach to the list after Downie was called for hooking at 3:40 of the third, and Benoit Pouliot scored at 4:51 to pull the Oilers to 4-3.
Downie has taken five minor penalties over his past eight games.
“The Downie penalty … ‘Downs’ has to get back to where he was in not taking penalties,” Johnston said. “He took two the other night. The one tonight in the offensive zone, you can’t take a penalty in the offensive zone and give the other team a chance at that time in the game.”
A few other tidbits:
=Downie finished with a goal and an assist for his eighth multi-point game of the season.
=Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist and David Perron combined for seven points and a plus-6 rating. Evgeni Malkin, Blake Comeau and Chris Kunitz totaled one assist and were a minus-3.
=Despite four goals against, Kris Letang was a plus-2, Paul Martin a plus-3. Letang is plus or even in 11 straight, Martin the same in 10 of 11. Crazy stuff.
=Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 25 of 29 shots to improve to 8-3-2 over his past 13 starts.
That’s it for me. Club practices at noon at Southpointe. See yinz there.
Be GRATEFUL to each other,