PITTSBURGH — It turned out to be a pretty lousy Thursday night for Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan.
Not only was his team completely outclassed and outmatched in a decisive 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks, but he also ended up getting himself ejected late in the third period after a line brawl nearly broke out during a commercial break.
The entire ordeal started at center ice and seemed to be the result of Sharks forward Evander Kane trying to sneak a look at the Penguins’ white board as they were drawing up a play after pulling goalie Casey DeSmith for an extra attacker.
We know this is what started it because Kane admitted as much after the game.
“I was just standing there, looking at their bench, just looking at their board that they were using and one of their players, not really sure who it was, jumped over and tried to do something about it and it just kind of escalated,” said Kane when asked about what happened.
He was then asked if that is something he normally does.
“Well they were about to pull their goalie, right?” Just like to think that is little bit of a savvy veteran thing to do. If you can see it, why wouldn’t you do it?”
The result of that was a heated scrum at center ice involving all of the players that were on the ice at that time.
Things really started to escalate when Sharks defender Brenden Dillon punched an unsuspecting Marcus Pettersson in the face, infuriating Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. Crosby, Kris Letang, Dillon, and recently acquired Sharks forward Michael Haley were all involved in the altercation.
While that was happening, Kane ended up getting the better of a fight with Penguins forward Tanner Pearson.
The next thing everyone knew, Sullivan was exiting the Penguins’ bench after being seen screaming at the officials.
For the Sharks, Haley and Dillon both received 10-minute misconducts for their roles, while Kane was given a five-minute major for fighting.
On the Penguins’ side, Crosby and Pettersson were both given 10-minute misconducts,
Pearson was given a five-minute major for fighting, and Sullivan was given a game misconduct.
The Penguins’ coach had absolutely zero interest in discussing the matter after the game, highlighted by this exchange that took place during an uncharacteristically short and tense press conference.
Reporter: “Mike can you describe as best you can what happened there at the end?”
Reporter: “Or what led to your ejection…”
Maybe it was the events that preceded the brawl, or the ejection itself, or just his overall disappointment with the way his team played in what should have been a measuring stick game that soured his mood.
Or perhaps it was the way the Penguins’ meltdown continued after the brawl with Phil Kessel taking an offensive zone penalty right off the ensuing face-off, which was quickly followed by Kris Letang going off for cross-checking Tomas Hertl after the latter took a late swing at Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith. That sequence resulted in an extended two-man advantage for the Sharks that produced Brent Burns‘ 12th goal of the season, turning the game into a rout.
All four of the Sharks’ goals on Thursday came as a result of their special teams, scoring three power play goals and a shorthanded goal.
The Penguins still occupy the third playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division but are just one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes (winners on Thursday night) and only two points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are currently on the outside of the playoff picture.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.