Columbus coach John Tortorella and Pens bench boss Mike Sullivan have been buddies for a long time. Sullivan was on Tortorella’s staff in Tampa Bay, New York and Vancouver, and the two reunited to coach Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey.
But that doesn’t mean they always like each other.
Flash back to December of 2015. In a game in which his Penguins were beating up on Torts’ Blue Jackets, Sullivan sent out his top power-play unit with a minute to go — in a 5-2 game. That one stuck in Tortorella’s craw.
Now, flash forward a year later, to Columbus’ 7-1 thrashing of Pittsburgh on Dec. 22. This time, it was Torts rolling out his top PP guys late in the game, effectively running up the score.
That led to some jawing and a staring contest between the two.
So, what did Tortorella have to say ahead of tonight’s big rematch?
“(The power plays) came up,” Tortorella said, per the Dispatch. “But he was the (jerk) first, let’s get that straight. He went first, and I told him that. I said, ‘You were (a jerk).’ He told me I was (a jerk).
“We were like two little kids, but we both agreed that we are both (jerks).”
Tonight’s tilt in Pittsburgh should be a good one. The two clubs had a mutual dislike prior to the Torts-Sully hi-jinx — culminating in an emotional first-round playoff series in ’14 — and the Brandon Dubinsky–Sidney Crosby feud has been well established.
And if it’s a blowout, be sure to keep an eye on any late power plays.