Penguins coach Mike Sullivan mulls changes to stop flood of shorthanded goals against |

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan mulls changes to stop flood of shorthanded goals against

Jonathan Bombulie
New Jersey Devils’ Sami Vatanen (45) checks Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby (87) in front of goalie Keith Kinkaid (1) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019.

As the season rolled on and total of shorthanded goals given up by his team continued to rise, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan resisted the urge to make wholesale changes to his top power play.

These are guys, Sullivan would say, who have played key roles in countless victories over the past few seasons.

They only gave up three shorthanded goals all of last season, he reminded. They’re capable of cleaning up this mess themselves as long as they start to heed the lessons that had been heaped upon them.

The total hit a league-high 11 when Brian Boyle scored shorthanded to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 6-3 victory over the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Monday night.

That’s three shorthanded goals allowed in the past six games.

Now, Sullivan feels like staying the course might no longer be a viable option.

“I think we’re probably there,” Sullivan said. “As a coach, it’s always a fine line. You want to show faith and trust in your guys. As I’ve said all along this year, our first power-play unit has been a difference maker for this team for a long time. They’re all really good players, but we have to take more responsibility for having a defensive conscience when guys are in trouble, and it doesn’t seem like we’re recognizing the danger.

“And we don’t take care of the puck. We’re careless with some of the decisions we make with the puck and it cost us.”

Sullivan didn’t specify any specific remedies he might take, but the obvious solution would be using a second defenseman on the first power-play unit.

Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola combined to set up a Derick Brassard goal two seconds after a power play ended Monday night, so they would be logical candidates for a promotion.

Whatever route Sullivan takes, it seems likely the team’s power play will have at least a slightly different look when the Penguins play host to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.

“It’s always comes back to we have to trust each other and work for each other,” winger Patric Hornqvist said. “We don’t do the right things for each other and those things happen.”

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Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.