PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Forward Kasperi Kapanen scored twice as the Pens bounced back from a bad game in New York and trailing 1-0 after the first period to beat Philadelphia 5-2.
“The fact that we were able to respond tonight and score a couple of goals is an indication of where the mindset needs to be,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “That’s something that we’ve talked about as a team.”
Reax to Sid
Pens found out Tuesday morning that Sidney Crosby wouldn’t play after he was put on the COVID-19 list. His teammates responded.
“He’s obviously the engine of this team,” said forward Bryan Rust. “He’s such an extremely important player. Everyone had to step up a little bit and bring what he brings.”
“There are going to be a lot of challenges this year that we can’t control,” said goalie Tristan Jarry. “Something that you can’t really think too much into, and take as it goes. I thought we did a really good job today.”
“He’s our leader,” Kapanen said. “Stuff happens. I thought the team really stepped up tonight. I think we played one of our more complete games.”
“I thought the guys played hard tonight,” Sullivan said. “We focused on the game. I thought we defended hard when we needed to. We got some pretty decent play throughout our lineup.”
Around 2,800 fans attended. The first game in nearly a calendar year there were fans in the lower bowl at PPG Paints Arena.
“It creates the environment that we are all accustomed to,” Sullivan said. “That we are all longing for that we haven’t had in quite a long time. I know our players were fired up for it. You get energy from it. I think our guys got some juice from the crowd.”
“It was unbelievable,” Kapanen said. “It’s been awhile since we’ve played in front of fans. Even though there were 28-hundred, it felt like 20,000. Felt like things were kinda going back to normal.”
“It was nice,” Rust said. “Even just going out for warms and seeing how many people were there. Coming out there for the first period. Definitely a welcome change for sure.”
“That’s part of Penguins hockey is having the fans there and having them behind us,” Jarry said. “So you see how much it changes when there are fans in the crowd. It motivates us that much more.”
After allowing power play goals in 15 of 20 games this year, the Pens allowed none in five chances.
“Tonight we competed hard,” Sullivan said. “It wasn’t perfect. I thought our best penalty killer was Tristan Jarry. Especially in the first period. He made some big saves early on in our penalty kill.”
“We were able to work as a unit,” Rust said. “We got some good pressure up the ice. We had some timely saves by Jarry.”
Coach joins Crosby
Assistant coach Todd Reirden was not available for the game against the Flyers due to COVID-related protocols. Reirden is responsible for the defensemen and power play. Skating and skills development coach Ty Hennes joined Mike Sullivan on the bench.
“This is Ty’s first NHL game behind the bench,” Sullivan said. “We were thrilled for him.”
Like with Crosby, there will be no updates from the team on Reirden and it could be for checking a questionable positive, contact tracing or just feeling symptoms that may not be COVID.
The starting lineup without Crosby had Evgeni Malkin centering the top line with Jake Guentzel and Rust. Jared McCann moved back to center between Brandon Tanev and Kapanen. Newly called up Josh Currie centered the fourth line with Colton Sceviour and Anthony Angello.
Marcus Pettersson stayed with Kris Letang, Mike Matheson with John Marino and Mark Friedman played his first game as a Penguin and the defenseman paired with Cody Ceci.
The 5’11” Friedman claimed off waivers from the Flyers last week. A third-round pick by then Flyers and now Pens GM Rob Hextall.
Starting every game since January 22, rookie defenseman PO Joseph was not only out of the lineup, but moved to the Taxi Squad along with forward Frederick Gaudreau. As forwards Josh Currie and Drew O’Connor were recalled.
A former first round pick who came over in the Phil Kessel trade, Joseph spent most of his time with Kris Letang. Sullivan changed to Pettersson before Saturday’s game. Joseph hasn’t had a point since his first goal on February 6. A minus 4 combined with no points over the last 9 games.