There could be tweaks, of course, but don’t look for Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan to make much in the way of changes going into Game 3 of his team’s qualifying-round series against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday in Toronto.
After all, he stuck with the same goalie, Matt Murray, and the same lineup for Game 2 following a 3-2 overtime loss in the opener, and it paid off with a 3-1 win Monday that evened the best-of-five series.
“We believe in the group that we have,” Sullivan told reporters.
“There’s no panic. They’re a confident group. They believe in one another, and they control what they can. They do a real good job of just staying in the moment. They’re not going to dwell on the past, and they’re certainly not going to get ahead of ourselves.”
The players appreciate Sullivan’s steady hand.
“It shows a lot of faith,” defenseman John Marino said.
The Penguins also have for years had faith in their captain, Sidney Crosby. He has not only scored in each of the two games in the series but also has continued practicing his leadership skills.
“Everybody is watching Sid on our team,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “Even the older guys are always kind of going to follow him. When Sid is leading your team, you know you’re in good hands.”
In a series that was expected to key heavily on the goaltenders — a possible competition between Murray and Tristan Jarry for Pittsburgh, and stellar play from Montreal’s Carey Price that might be able to shut down the Penguins’ firepower — Sullivan’s biggest move seemed to be sticking with Murray. The two-time Stanley Cup winner carried a shutout into the third period Monday and made a few big saves, including one on Tomas Tatar in the third.
“That’s what Matt does at this time of year,” Sullivan said of Murray. “He makes big saves at key times that help us win games.”
Calls for Jarry can be expected to die down, if not disappear, and it would be a shock if Sullivan didn’t start Murray in Game 3.
“He’s come up big for us before,” Marino said. “Obviously, we have a lot of confidence that he’ll keep doing that for us.”
Price has allowed two goals in each of the first two games (there was an empty-netter in Game 2), and it could be said that he stole Game 1.
“All I can say is he’s given us a chance to win both games,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “He’s by far our best player after two games. He’s been outstanding.
“I would have liked for us to respond a little bit better (in Game 2). But that’s what Carey is and that’s what Carey is known for, and he’s living up to his reputation right now.”
That reputation, and even more strong play by Price, probably won’t be enough to carve out two more wins for Montreal. Feisty forward Max Domi was succinct about that.
“Everyone knows it’s nice to have the best goaltender in the world — he’s really kept us in it — but we have to find a way to be a little better top to bottom in front of him,” Domi said.
–Field Level Media