The Penguins eked out a 7-6 win over New Jersey on Tuesday. The Devils made a valiant comeback attempt in the third, scoring all of their goals in the final frame, but Pittsburgh was able to hold on for two points in regulation.
Mike Matheson, Bryan Rust, Brian Dumoulin, Jeff Carter (first goal as a Penguin), Teddy Blueger, Evan Rodrigues and Sidney Crosby all scored for the Penguins. Tristan Jarry made 24 saves.
Obviously, the biggest question on everyone's minds following this game was, what on earth happened in the third? The Penguins entered the period with a comfortable 6-0 cushion, and exited the period clinging onto their lead. So of course, that question was posited to the players and head coach Mike Sullivan during their postgame media availability.
Rodrigues said they just took their foot off the gas pedal. Both Rust and Dumoulin used the word 'sloppy,' saying they weren't quite as detail oriented. Sullivan pointed to New Jersey's 5-on-3 power play at the start of the period as something which gave them juice. They all credited the Devils, saying they came out flying and pushed hard to get back in the game, and were playing with a real free spirit since they had nothing to lose.
But I thought this answer from Sullivan summed it up the best, so here it is in full…
"I'm glad we won. These are important points. I thought we had a great start. I thought we played pretty well in the first couple of periods. There was a lot of things to like about it. We didn't play well in the third. We could talk forever on why and what went wrong or how. But the reality is we know we can't do that moving forward. My hope is that that's an outlier. It's not something that we've seen a whole lot of. This has been my first experience of that type of a circumstance. And hopefully we all learn from it, and make sure that we're diligent moving forward."
And I think he's absolutely right. The Penguins really did play a dominant first two periods which got them that huge margin in the first place. They had the start they wanted, scoring three goals in the first 8:49. The execution, which had been lacking in Sunday's loss to Buffalo, was also on point as guys were pulling off phenomenal plays left and right - like Crosby's pass to Rust on his goal and Rodrigues' feed to Blueger on his.
Obviously, the third period leaves a bad taste in their mouths. But as Rust put it, every game is a new game. It doesn't matter if they had actually ended up winning 6-0 instead of 7-6; you've got to heed your lessons and keep trying to improve. And that's exactly what the Penguins are going to do after this one, and it's exactly what they've been doing all year long. They're a resilient group, and they're a proud group. They aren't happy about how this ended, I have no doubt they'll do everything in their power to make sure it doesn't happen again.
"At the end of the game, we scored seven, they scored six, and we ended up getting the win," Dumoulin said. "I think right now we got to learn from it and watch video and see what we can improve on, especially because we're playing them again on Thursday and on Saturday, too."