Penguins have edge on Steelers when it comes to coach’s challenges |
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Jonathan Bombulie
Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, left rear, talks with referee Brian Pochmara (16) with assistant coach Mark Recchi listening during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018.

It’s been a challenging year for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.

If there’s one area where Sullivan has had a better time than his football counterpart in town, though, it’s on video replay challenges.

While Tomlin has famously gone 0 for 4 on challenges this season, Sullivan has made three successful challenges in a row to improve to 4-2 on the year.

On Saturday night, the Penguins successfully called for a review of a Tyler Toffoli goal in the second period and went on to win by the narrowest of margins, 4-3 in overtime over the Los Angeles Kings.

Replays showed Kings forward Adrian Kempe was a step offside entering the zone before the goal was scored.

In the NHL system, unsuccessful offside challenges are punished by a two-minute penalty, so Sullivan was taking a fairly significant risk by making the call.

He did so because he was comfortable taking the advice of video coach Andy Saucier, whose correct offside challenge in Game 6 of the 2016 Eastern Conference finals in Tampa just might have won the Penguins a Stanley Cup.

“I think Sauce is an all-star,” Sullivan said. “He’s really good at what he does. He’s terrific at breaking down those situations because we don’t get a good enough look on the bench.”

Sullivan said he and the coaching staff set up a system for deciding whether to challenge calls before the season started.

Saucier watches the game on multiple video screens and usually makes a recommendation on offside calls. Goalie coach Mike Buckley watches from the press box and often gives his opinion on goalie interference calls.

“Ultimately, I have to make the decision about whether we’re going to take the risk associated with those types of decisions, but I have the utmost faith and trust in Sauce and what he sees,” Sullivan said. “I just think he’s an all-star.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

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

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