The Pittsburgh Penguins will enter the second half of their home-and-home set against the visiting Ottawa Senators on Friday piping hot under the collar.
The Penguins aren’t so much angry at the Senators, who won Wednesday at home 5-4 in overtime. Instead, they were left seething at themselves and over the officiating after they were assessed eight penalties in the first meeting and gave up four goals to Ottawa’s power play.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan seemed to have a difficult time containing his anger over the circumstances in the game.
“It’s pretty tough to assess a game like that when half of the game is special teams. There was no flow to it. There was no five-on-five,” Sullivan fumed. “It was ridiculous.”
The Penguins were 2-for-5 on the power play, further reducing the five-on-five play Wednesday.
Sullivan appeared to be livid while behind the bench at several points Wednesday. In as diplomatic way as he could muster afterward, Sullivan said of the officiating, “Let’s just say I question a fair amount of the calls.”
Regardless of blame, the Penguins are pushing themselves to be more disciplined in the rematch Friday.
“We’ve got to stay out of the (penalty) box,” said Pittsburgh winger Jason Zucker, who notched a goal Wednesday.
“We put our penalty kill in a really tough spot.”
The Senators, not surprisingly, were at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum after captain Brady Tkachuk scored the winner 25 seconds into overtime.
“On special teams, I thought we stepped up,” Tkachuk said. “We’ve struggled (on the power play) as of late, so we just needed to get back to our identity.”
Ottawa was 2-for-16 on the power play over its previous five games, and stacking up the power-play goals Wednesday certainly helped — the team is 20-5-2 in games when it scores three or more goals.
The Senators, who snapped a two-game losing streak and had lost four of five before Wednesday, will be trying to sweep the home-and-home against one of the teams standing in their way for a playoff spot.
Pittsburgh has lost three of four, is 3-6-3 in its past 12 games and has fallen into a struggle to be even in the wild-card conversation. Still, the Penguins are eight points ahead of the Senators, bunched with several other teams.
“It’s the team we’re trying to catch,” Tkachuk said of the Penguins. “We’re treating this as do or die. It’s a playoff atmosphere — energy, emotions.
“That’s what we want to play with, and that’s what we want to carry going into the next game.”
The Senators on Wednesday got back forward Josh Norris, who had been out since Oct. 22 after shoulder surgery. He had two shots and played 19:14.
The Penguins, who canceled their practice Thursday, could get one or more — or none — of their several injured players back on Friday.
That includes their top three right-handed defensemen — Kris Letang, Jeff Petry and Jan Rutta — along with No. 1 goaltender Tristan Jarry and forwards Ryan Poehling and Josh Archibald. All but Rutta have been practicing to some degree.
–Field Level Media