Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins’ 4-3 overtime win against the Washington Capitals in Game 6 at CONSOL Energy Center.
1. DOGS = (ALMOST) GOAT
After allowing the Caps to convert two of three power plays in their Game 5 loss, the Pens were vocal about saying they had to be disciplined and not give them any opportunities. And for the most part, they did that through two periods – until they ended up with incredibly terrible luck in the third. With the Pens holding onto a 3-2 lead past the halfway point, they somehow ended up with three straight delay of game penalties by sailing clearing attempts over the glass – which is something Mike Sullivan said he had never seen in all the years he’s been around the game. That gave the Caps a total of 1:58 with the two-man advantage, and they took advantage – netting the tying goal on the last one. Unfortunately for the Pens, after that, Kris Letang was called for interference with less than three minutes left to play. Pittsburgh’s shorthanded specialists did what they could in a tremendously difficult circumstance, and were able to get through regulation and make it to overtime – where the rest is history.
2. RESILIENCY CHALLENGED
Mike Sullivan has talked so much about resiliency with his group since he took over the team. And tonight, they faced their biggest challenge yet in that regard and ended up defining the term. The head coach said it all started with their leadership, which was strong in the room. Ian Cole said that Sidney Crosby spoke to the team during that intermission. “It wasn’t a big speech,” the defenseman said. “Sid said ‘Guys, we still got a game here. We’re still in a decent spot. Obviously we want to finish it out, everyone knows that, but we can’t stop playing, we can’t just fold this game. We’re still in a great spot. One more goal and this game is over. What’s the past is the past. You can’t do anything about it now. Got to play. Got to be moving forward and continue to play hard.’ Sully came in and said pretty much the same thing.” And that’s exactly what the guys did. They dominated the extra period and eventually were rewarded with the win.
3. ‘SECOND LINE’
As Sullivan said, this was a collective effort from the group. But I was particularly impressed with the forwards, who all played 200-foot games. They were coming down low to support their defensemen, and they were relentless heading back the other way. That being said, the ‘second line’ of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel stood out the most – with those three combining for all four of Pittsburgh’s goals. I didn’t think it was possible for Hagelin to reach another level of speed, but somehow, he found one tonight. He’s arguably the fastest guy in the NHL on any given night, but this evening it felt like he was at turbo speed – and he was using it to be a huge factor all over the ice. It was without a doubt the strongest performance I’ve seen from him in a Pens sweater. Kessel stepped up with two clutch scores, and Bonino – what even needs to be said apart from overtime, series-clinching game-winner?