Penguins, Phil Kessel learn from the mistakes of the power game

Updated 4 hours ago

When the Pittsburgh Penguins abandoned their tenth goal of the season of the season last Saturday in Los Angeles, coach Mike Sullivan was furious.

He was not angry because his first-clbad power play unit went around the disks. That happens to the best.

He was angry because his team was not learning from his mistakes.

"We're going to pay attention to the lessons," Sullivan said. "If we turn the record around, we have to have a level of urgency to defend that we have not shown up to this point."

Six days later, he was given the opportunity to play his best power game to demonstrate if the attention process had begun.

With a little more than a minute remaining in overtime, a disc escaped from Kris Letang near the right spot and jumped towards the red line. Derek Stepan of Arizona was chasing and a break seemed imminent.

Suddenly, from the opposite wing, a white shirt crossed the neutral zone. It was Phil Kessel.

When Stepan reached the point on the left side at the other end of the ice, Kessel had reached it. It hit the disc of the wood of the front of Arizona to end with the threat.

Seconds later, Kessel hit a shot by Sidney Crosby to give the Penguins a 3-2 overtime victory that broke a two-game losing streak on Friday night.

Exactly one month earlier, former Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis appeared on French-Canadian television and said that Sullivan's message was not reaching Kessel and Evgeni Malkin.

On Friday night, curiously, it was Kessel who made the attention. He was the one who showed the urgency to defend.

Victory in overtime was also critical. If the penguins had lost, they would have gone to Las Vegas on Saturday night, noting the real possibility of taking a four-game losing streak to a week-long break.

Instead, they have the opportunity to finish a road trip in the west of five games with a winning record and keep pace in a closed race for the Metropolitan Division.

Here are three other things we learned from the Friday night game.

1. Goaltending decisions

Before the game, Sullivan faced a decision that would have sounded very familiar to any high school wrestling coach.

The penguins were starting a series of games in a row in Arizona and Las Vegas. Your best chance at winning both games probably would have meant starting with the backing of Casey DeSmith against the less formidable Coyotes and saving starter Matt Murray for the more powerful Golden Knights.

That, of course, would also have been his best chance of losing both games.

Instead, Sullivan decided to try to win the game right in front of him and worry about the next one.

Murray gave his team the bonus point on Friday night with a solid performance of 30 saves. Now it is likely that Sullivan will ask DeSmith to come out against Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights and stay away from his back.

2. Best Brbadard

While his name swirls in rumors of exchange, Derick Brbadard made a great effort on Friday night while playing in a line with Dominik Simon and Tanner Pearson. He forced a rotation that led to Juuso Riikola's power play goal in the second period. When on the ice with uniform strength, the penguins had a 6-2 advantage in scoring chances.

"It was amazing tonight," Brbadard said. "We were on the same page, we were supporting each other."

3. Lucky charm

Riikola is not a starting pitcher, so it's probably not as useful to keep track of his record of wins and losses, but when he plays this season, the Penguins have a 16-5-3 record. When he has been scratched, they are 10-10-3.

Sullivan was impressed with his power goal.

"It was a bomb," Sullivan said. "You can really shoot the disc."

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins throughout the season.

Jonathan Bombulie is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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