Assistant coach Rick Tocchet gives his three impressions of Pittsburgh's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay.
1. For me, it was playing three in four nights, the battle. It’s 4-0, I’m sure the whole world thought we were going to get blown out. And I thought we stuck with the game plan and the battle was really nice, as a coaching staff, to see.
2. I thought the effort. When you’re shorthanded people, it’s the next man up. That’s been our mantra the last month, is the next man up.
3. And for me, the overall leadership of the guys. Because you know, it’s easy to quit. It’s easy to say, hey, let’s have a good Christmas, the game’s over. And we never had that ‘let’s get the eggnog early’ (mentality). It was more like, we’re not dead here. And we’re one shot away and we’re close to scoring to tie it up.
Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the media level.
1. I think the character of this team is the biggest takeaway for me. Because I’ll admit it, I was one of those people who thought the Penguins were going to get blown out. . The Pens had done an incredible job up to this point of finding ways to win despite missing so many guys, and key ones at that. But tonight, it felt everything they’ve been dealing with – the injuries, the mumps outbreak, playing the second of back-to-back games and third in four nights – was going to catch up to them. But they proved me absolutely wrong. While they gradually improved as the game went along, their third period was what impressed me the most. The Penguins made an incredible push, especially in the last few minutes, to tie this game up. The Penguins had possession in Tampa Bay’s end the entire time. And their star players stepped up to put them in the position to get that tying goal. Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby (even though he didn’t get on the scoresheet) led the way, and that’s exactly what you want to see.
2. I would say the very end of the first and beginning of the second is what got the Pens. With the Pens down 1-0 and the clock ticking down the final seconds of the opening period, Pittsburgh needed to bear down and just survive the rest of the frame. But they weren’t able to. After losing a faceoff, the Pens had three tries to get the puck out, but couldn’t – and found themselves down in a two-goal hole. Then, because of a couple of bad breakdowns to start the next period, the Lightning scored twice in the first 2:37 of the second to take a 4-0 lead. That resulted in Marc-Andre Fleury getting pulled for the first time this season and replaced by Jeff Zatkoff. This was Fleury’s fifth straight start – matching his season high – and second in as many nights, where he saw 83 shots in those previous couple of games.
“I planned on starting him, I wanted him to play the game because I thought he gave us the best chance to win with the way he’s been playing lately,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “I just thought the way the game was going that time, I thought to give Zatkoff in and get ‘Flower’ a break was the right thing to do. It wasn’t anything to do with the goals. They had great chances on him. They had six good chances in the first period, then they had the breakaway that got the third goal. So he was under siege a little bit. Even though there wasn’t a lot of shots, there was some real high-end ones.”
3. The positive is that the Penguins now have three days off for the holidays to rest, recover and hopefully get some players back when they return to game action on Dec. 27 vs. Washington.
“Certainly we’re hoping that over the next five or six days, maybe by the end of this break, we’ll start to get some bodies back into the lineup,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “It’s going to be exciting at that time getting two or three guys, then maybe the next week, getting two or three (more) guys back and that will really give us a big boost at that time.”