I realize I’m still relatively new here, but I honestly thought there might be mixed emotions in the Penguins locker room — and especially in the coaches room — after a 4-3 overtime win over the Capitals tonight.
Sure, they clinched second place in the Metropolitan Division. They actually did that just by getting to overtime after the Rangers lost 4-1 to the Islanders earlier. But they also had to play overtime after holding a 3-0 lead as late as 17 minutes into the second period.
Coaches usually hate that.
But that’s not how it played out.
The Penguins seemed happy to secure home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs and coach Mike Sullivan chalked up the blown lead largely to the vagaries of the game.
“That’s hockey. When you look around the league, it happens a lot,” Sullivan said. “I think our team has been extremely diligent in making sure when we have leads, we continue to play on our toes and we don’t sit back and let teams come at us. This is a good team we played. They had some chances in the third and they buried a couple of them. What I love about it is how our teams responds to it. For me, that’s encouraging. We don’t sink on the bench. We don’t get rattled. We go about our business. We go back and we play.”
Sullivan’s right, I guess. When the Senators blew a three-goal lead to the Penguins two nights ago, you didn’t see them steady things up and force overtime. They got rolled.
Crosby OT winner pic.twitter.com/C5uPuMTcxe
— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 8, 2016
And they certainly didn’t score an OT goal as pretty as this one.
Beyond that, Matt Cullen, whose 39-year-old legs helped him score two hustle goals in the first two periods, said he thinks a game like tonight’s might end up helping the Penguins in the long run.
“That’s good preparation for the playoffs,” Cullen said. “Nobody’s going to go away, no matter what the lead is. It was good for us to see that. It was good to experience it. The crowd really got into it. It felt like a playoff game, which is good for us. Obviously there are a few things we’d like to clean up and we’ll take a look at them, but that’s playoff hockey. There’s a lot of ups and downs. Teams are going to come back. It’s an emotional roller coaster.”
All right. I give up. I guess Sullivan and Cullen have convinced me. Go ahead and celebrate home ice without my pesky questions, Penguins. You’ve come a long way since December.
Some other notes from tonight’s game:
— Sullivan said Beau Bennett did not play after taking warm-ups because the team is being cautious with him as he’s still dealing with the effects of a shoulder injury that cost him 42 games earlier this season. Tom Sestito took his spot in the lineup.
— Sestito was right earlier. His presence in the lineup didn’t deter Tom Wilson from taking a boarding major that sent Nick Bonino briefly to the locker room for repairs. But that doesn’t mean Sestito didn’t play a good game. I thought he was excellent. He played seven shifts for about six minutes of ice time, recording an assist, getting involved in at least one other scoring chance and delivering five hits. A strong showing.
— Who was the toughest No. 43 on the ice tonight? Was it Wilson, who would win a fight against all but one or two players in the division? Or was it Conor Sheary, who scored a second-period goal despite having an ugly, swollen eye from a high stick two days earlier? Depends on your definition of toughness.
— Checking out the possession stats, good night for the Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel line. Good night for Brian Dumoulin, who has been really effective defending Alex Ovechkin this season. Bad night for the Cole-Schultz pair.
As I try to learn more about using advanced stats, tonight’s Corsi chart from hockeystats.ca confuses me. The Capitals had more shot attempts when the Penguins were scoring and the Penguins had more shot attempts while the Capitals were scoring.
If anybody wants to take a crack at explaining it to me, I’m all ears in the comments or on Twitter. (Comments about my sloppy screen-grabbing are not as welcome.)
— You know how teams often talk about wanting to turn in a full 60-minute effort? I think that’s where Matt Murray is right now. He’s been good for the most part, with a handful of hiccups along the way. Early in the game against Ottawa. Late in the game tonight. Not awful hiccups. I mean, two of the three goals he gave up tonight came on redirections around the net. But for a few minutes here and there, on a few shots here and there, he hasn’t consistently reached the high standards he’s set for himself.
— Power play wasn’t good tonight, going 0-4, including a five-minute major after Wilson hit Bonino. Can’t imagine the coaches were too happy with that.
See, there I go again …
Bye for now,