Skip to Main Content
The Official Site of the Pittsburgh Penguins

Sully Says: The Most Important Thing Is We Walked Away With Two Points

Despite a third-period push from the Capitals, the Penguins were able to come away with a 4-3 regulation win over Washington

by Luke Henne / Pittsburgh Penguins

After Thursday's 3-2 loss in Dallas, Evgeni Malkin said that the Penguins "need everyone, not just first line or goalie - every line, every player, we need to keep going."

"We understand every game is important right now," Malkin said after that loss. "We have played great. A little bit of luck next game and we'll be fine."

Depth scoring from Ryan Poehling and Chad Ruhwedel, as well as a power-play tally from Jake Guentzel, helped Pittsburgh get out to a commanding 3-0 lead on Saturday night against Washington at PPG Paints Arena. Casey DeSmith was particularly fantastic in the first 40 minutes, coming up with some really big and timely saves.

But after Washington responded and tied the score with three-consecutive goals in the final period, Malkin took matters into his own hands - ripping one past Darcy Kuemper's blocker with 1:20 left in regulation.

"Lots of drama in the third period," Malkin said with a laugh. "My goal, it's like, just try to do my best. Last game, I try 2-on-1, I shoot low blocker and I can't score. But finally, it gives me confidence, for sure. It's a huge goal for me, and two points for the team."

DeSmith withstood the Capitals' final push with two huge stops on T.J. Oshie in the waning seconds to help the Penguins seal a 4-3 win at PPG Paints Arena.

"Obviously would have liked to make it a little cleaner in the third there, but that's why you have star players," DeSmith said with a smile. "Geno makes a huge play there for us. More exciting for the fans that way (laughs) but I guess I would do without that next time."

It was an all-around team effort, much like Malkin called for just two nights ago, and contributions came from all over the lineup.

"We need to play better in the third period, for sure… I hope it's the last game we play like this, but again, we play against a good team," Malkin said. "They score power play, 4-on-4. It's like, I hope our fans love this game, for sure."

With the win, the Penguins are now just a point behind the New York Islanders for the top Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They're also three points ahead of the Florida Panthers for the conference's final spot. Here's what head coach Mike Sullivan had to say following Saturday's victory.

On what his heart condition is at this point in the season after a game like tonight's: "Well, it was an emotionally charged game. There were moments in the game I thought were really good, there were moments in the game, not so much. I think the most important thing is, especially at this time of year, that we walked away with two points. So, it's not the cleanest game that we've played as of late. I think we played a lot of good hockey as a team as of late, and haven't got rewarded. It's funny how the game works. I just think there were moments in the game where either team did things really well, or didn't do some things really well. As a result, I think that's why you saw some of the emotional swings, the momentum swings and the goal-scoring swings."

On if it's tempting to give DeSmith the net for Tuesday's game after his performance tonight (Tristan Jarry served as the backup after missing Thursday's contest against the Stars with a lower-body injury): "Well, we'll see. Case has played really well for us, and he made some big saves tonight, especially in the first couple of periods. I thought he was dynamite, and he made some big saves to give us a chance to keep the lead and build on the lead. So, we'll make those decisions accordingly, game-to-game. We'll see how Jars responds here. But, without a doubt, I think Casey is making a strong case for himself. He's playing extremely well."

On if it speaks to Malkin's character that he was able to respond with the game-winning goal after taking a penalty that allowed Washington to mount its comeback attempt: "Yeah, I think so. He's such a competitive guy. He cares - you guys know this, how much he cares about the Penguins and this team's ability to have success. I think he takes it personal. He's just an ultra-competitive guy. He does some things out there, especially on the offensive side of the puck, that most players can't do. He also has moments without the puck where we'd like him to buy into the team concept, so to speak. But the one thing I always love about him is just his care factor and his compete level. For me, (Malkin's compete level) is off the charts, and that's what I love about him. Usually, when the stakes are high, that's when he's at his best. Obviously gets a huge goal for us tonight at a key time. We're happy for him, we're thrilled for our team."

On how satisfying it was to see Ryan Poehling score, given the injuries he's dealt with: "It's huge. I think it's huge. He's gone through a lot this year. I thought he really showed his speed on that goal, which is an important aspect of his game and helping us in so many ways. He's long. He's got a long reach, and he's a smart player on both sides of the puck. I think there's another level to his offensive game, but his defensive game is really solid, and his speed is a big part of it. But I thought his speed was evident on the offensive side in that circumstance. Ryan's been through a lot this year. I think he's starting to play really well for us. I think his timing, his conditioning, all of those things are starting to really round into form. He's missed a lot of hockey, so he's another one of those guys that's moving on a train going a hundred miles an hour. But I think he's really starting to bring his game to another level at the most important time of year."

On why the Penguins have been struggling to close games out: "I think there's different reasons in why there's been lost leads and some of the volatility of our game. It's not just our game. Watch the scores today around the league. You see it all over the league. So, I do think that we can do a better job in controlling leads by making better decisions with the puck, making it hard on our opponents and not giving them easy opportunities to get back in the game. I think that's the most important thing, is control what we can and make it hard on them. We open the (third) period with a power-play goal. The first goal they get, I think is just an unfortunate circumstance with Tanger (Kris Letang), and it ends up in our net. It gives them some juice. Then it's momentum. They get a power play, and Ovechkin scores on a one-timer. All of the sudden, it's a hockey game. I just think that's the nature of today's NHL. So just handling those momentum swings, I think, are really important moving forward."

On his thoughts on Chad Ruhwedel's goal, and how important it is for guys on defense to step up: "Well, it's a huge goal for us. It's a huge goal for him. I think just joining the rush, using his mobility to get involved in the offense. We want all of our defensemen to join, and that's the operative word - join the rush, not lead the rush - and I thought he did a real good job there. Just jumping into the play at the right time and created the odd-man rush. The goal's a great goal. It was a goal scorer's goal. I don't know if Chad is considered a goal scorer, but it was a goal-scorers' goal. It was a hell of a shot. Obviously that had to make him feel good. It certainly was huge for the team. You can see the reaction on the bench when a player like Chad scores because his teammates appreciate how hard he works, the type of pro that he is, just his professionalism every day - whether he's in the lineup, not in the lineup. He just comes to the rink every day. He works his tail off, and keeps himself ready. And when he does get the call to play, he competes. He competes hard out there for us. When those types of players can get rewarded on the scoresheet sometimes with goals, I think it means a lot to everybody - his teammates maybe more than him. They were so thrilled for him at that particular moment."

View More