Penguins coach Mike Sullivan calls out penalty killers after loss to Blackhawks
Coach Mike Sullivan didn't raise his voice — at least, not publicly — and he didn't threaten anybody's job after the Penguins' 2-1 loss Saturday night to the Chicago Blackhawks at PPG Paints Arena.
But there was no doubt about what he thinks of his penalty killers after they surrendered two power-play goals for the fourth time in the past five games.
Asked to explain the excessive charity, he set his jaw and didn't hold back.
“It's attention to detail. It's working together,” he said, “but it starts with a level of urgency that we don't have right now.
“It's a willingness to compete on pucks, on blocked shots and do all those thankless jobs that make good penalty kills, good penalty kills.”
Goaltender Matt Murray, who stopped 36 shots, kept the game close with some masterful saves. Sullivan acknowledged that, but he believes the Penguins allowed too many scoring chances — whether they went over the goal line or not.
“Quite honestly, I don't think we defended hard enough,” the coach said.
Part of the problem might have been the Penguins feeling the need to “chase the game,” Sullivan said, after the Blackhawks took a 1-0 in the first period on Gustav Forsling's power-play goal.
Matt Hunwick, playing in his first game since suffering a concussion Oct. 17, tied the score with a short-handed goal with 12 minutes left in the third period, but Chicago's Artem Anisimov netted the game-winner only 21 seconds later. Other than those handful of ticks on the clock, the Penguins trailed all night.
“Some of the odd-man rushes we gave up,” Sullivan said, “we're forcing plays to try to create offense. Maybe we're pressing because we're chasing the game all night long.
“That's a characteristic that we have to get better at if we're going to get to where we're going to go.
“This team can score goals. We don't have to force plays that aren't there in order to do it. We just have to try to play the game the right way. If we do, we'll get our chances.”
Murray admitted the Penguins are committing too many penalties, including one of his own for tripping. Last night, it was six penalties, resulting in five power plays and the decisive goals.
“The more penalties you take the more stress you put on your penalty killers,” he said. “It kills your rhythm as a team. We need to be more disciplined that way.”
The Penguins, who lost for the first time in four non-overtime games at home, had chances of their own, but Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was able to stop almost everything thrown at him.
The word everything is not used loosely in this contex. It included:
• Evgeni Malkin's big, onrushing thigh that caught Crawford in the head.
• A puck that crossed the goal line off Jake Guentzel's stick and would have tied the score, 2-2, with 8:27 left in the third period.
• And six Penguins attackers for the final 89 seconds.
Guentzel's goal was disallowed after replay review when Olli Maatta was called for goaltender's interference.
Crawford left the game for 2:52 in the second period after he strayed a few feet from the goal crease to control a loose puck and got in Malkin's path.
Anton Forsberg replaced Crawford, who went into the locker room for evaluation but returned before the Penguins could get a shot on goal.
Malkin went to the penalty box for two minutes for goaltender's interference, but the Penguins successfully killed that penalty.
The Penguins don't play again until Wednesday, giving Sullivan and his staff an opportunity to evaluate the team's penalty killers. He offered no clues to what the solution might be.
“The first thing we're going to do is we're going to watch the film and see what we can learn from it,” he said. “We can't continue to give up a goal or two goals on the penalty kill night in and night out and expect to win.”