Penguins notebook: Johnston stays with team despite mother’s death
Penguins coach Mike Johnston opted to remain with his team for Saturday’s game despite learning Friday night that his mother died.
Johnston will fly to his native Nova Scotia for her funeral Tuesday.
“It’s been a 10-day process,” Johnston said. “Kind of came on pretty quick, so I’ve been dealing with it all along. I’ll head back there at the beginning of the week.”
Johnston’s players didn’t require he be in attendance at their weekend home games. They certainly appreciated it, though.
“He’s so dedicated to hockey and to this team,” goalie Thomas Greiss said. “I think it speaks of his character that he’s still coaching.”
The Penguins are off Monday. Assistant coaches Rick Tocchet and Gary Agnew will run Tuesday’s practice.
Defenseman Ben Lovejoy said Johnston’s ability to coach through a difficult period in his life speaks volumes about his character.
“Everybody in this room got to this level because somebody was their mentor and went out of their way to be successful,” Lovejoy said. “Even though Mike’s 58 … it’s still your mom.”
Forward David Perron was a late scratch Saturday because he was sick.
Johnston didn’t specify whether he expected to have Perron for Sunday’s game against the San Jose Sharks but hinted that the extra time between games could be a good thing.
“We have an evening game tomorrow night, which I believe is an advantage,” Johnston said. “It gives us time to regroup, get organized.”
With Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist back in the lineup, the Penguins were able to dress 12 forwards — something they hadn’t done since a 3-1 win at Arizona on March 21.
That was, of course, until the 13:13 mark of the first period, when Blake Comeau was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit from behind on Andrew Campbell.
“I thought there was a slight turn with the player going in to get the puck,” Johnston said. “He turned slightly as (Comeau) was going in to hit him. That happens. Still, it’s the responsibility of the guy who’s checking to make sure that you don’t hit a guy from behind. We know that’s the same at all levels.
“When he was cut, I think he cut himself on the stanchion. I’m not really sure. That’s what I saw live. When he was cut, then refs had to react.”
Before the national anthem, the Penguins had a surprise visitor: Sgt. James Martin, who surprised his family after returning home from his second tour of duty in Iraq. Miranda Martin was accompanied by their sons and her and James’ mothers.
Public-address announcer Ryan Mill introduced the family but purposefully made no mention that James was waiting by the Zamboni entrance. Anthem singer Jeff Jimerson then encouraged the crowd to welcome home Martin.
Linesman Steve Barton was cut and bloodied by Chris Kunitz’ stick during the second period and did not return. The game finished with two referees and one linesman.