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June 1, 2016

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Game Two

Pittsburgh – 2
San Jose ‑ 1

Q. Mike, I'm sure you felt like you were the faster team tonight. Do you think there's some cumulative damage, that your speed is taking its toll on San Jose?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, I think our team has the ability to wear teams down with our puck‑pursuit game and forcing defensemen to turn and go back for pucks. It's tiring. It wears on people.
I've seen that throughout the course of this playoffs with some of our opponents. I think that's one of the strengths of our group, is when we establish the puck‑pursuit game like we have, it makes it hard on our opponents. We become a much more difficult team to play against.

Q. Mike, I don't know if it's on the series, but do you get a sense right now that Sidney Crosby is imposing his will on your team to pretty much do everything the right way to try to win this thing?
COACH SULLIVAN: Yeah, I think Sid, he's just been a horse out there. He's a threat every time he's on the ice. He's playing the game the right way. He plays a complete game, the full sheet. He wins faceoffs. He's great on the puck battles. He can defend. When he plays against the opponent's top players, he has the ability to score goals or create that offensive threat and force them to have to defend.
For me right now, I think he's inspiring for our group. I know our players recognize the effort that he's putting in. You can see it in his body language. He's excited about this opportunity that we have. He's trying to make the most of it. He's doing everything in his power to help this team win right now.

Q. Your team seems to have controlled the majority of the game. How were you able to respond when Braun tied it late?
COACH SULLIVAN: One of the things I've really liked about our team, and this is something that I think we've evolved over the last five months or so, but our guys just play. That's what we told them on the bench when it went in the net. You know what, San Jose is a good team. They're going to get some scoring chances.
We liked how our team was playing. We felt like we controlled the majority of the play. We just have to keep playing.
There's been so many examples of that throughout the course of this post‑season with this team that to this point, it doesn't surprise me. I just think we respond the right way to those adversities that take place. It doesn't deflate us. We just get out there the next shift, we drop the puck and we play.
I think you saw it tonight. I've witnessed it throughout the course of this post‑season. I really give a lot of credit to our veteran players in that regard because I think they lead the charge there.

Q. What was your message, if any, heading into the overtime period? What have you seen that has made this team so deadly and successful in the overtime?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, our message was that very thing: let's just play, let's just keep playing, play the game the right way, let's try to play fast, let's make good decisions with the puck, let's not feed their transition game. When we do that, we're hard to play against.
Let's continue to force the issue with our skating, make space plays, get in foot races. That's the type of game that I think plays to our strengths. That was our message to our team.
Sometimes it takes longer than three periods for us to get the result. As long as we stay with it, we believe in the group that we have and the way that we play.

Q. Mike, when Phil was up here a moment ago, I asked him why he's been able to score so many goals in the playoffs. He said he just tries to play his game. Do you think maybe he's a player that doesn't feel as much pressure as maybe other players throughout the playoffs?
COACH SULLIVAN: I don't know. Phil's a guy, he doesn't show a whole lot of emotion. He just goes over the boards. You tell him his line is up, he goes over the boards, he plays. I think that's part of his personality.
He doesn't seem to have any sort of anxiety. He just plays the game that he always plays. That's what he's doing for us.
I think Phil's a guy, not too many players in the league can score like him. He really has a knack for finding the back of the net, whether it's in tight, his release on the shot, the velocity of his shot. He's a threat in a lot of ways.
He's really helped us when he's found that chemistry with the guys that he's playing with right now. That line has been really, I think, critical in scoring some timely goals for us throughout the course of this playoffs.
I think those guys, they're feeling it right now. They have that chemistry. I think they believe in one another. Their confidence is at an all‑time high. I think he's part of it.
There aren't too many guys that I've seen anyway that can score goals like Phil.

Q. Yesterday you had an optional workout. Six players were on the ice. One of them was Sidney Crosby. At the end of that workout, he was working on faceoffs with Eric Fehr. Having seen that, I assume it didn't come as a surprise to you that he was so dominant tonight in the faceoff circle throughout the game?
COACH SULLIVAN: No, it doesn't surprise me because I think that's Sid. His work ethic is unmatched. He has an insatiable appetite to get better and be the best.
I've said it on a number of occasions. He's not as good as he is by accident. He works extremely hard at it. He prides himself in the details of his game, like faceoffs. Because of that, I don't think it surprises any one of us that he's able to dominate in the faceoff circle or in some of the other aspects of his game.

Q. Are you going to be making sure that Geno gets some rest on the road? Probably didn't get a lot of sleep the last couple days here.
COACH SULLIVAN: I'm sure he will. Geno has had a real exciting couple of days. We're all thrilled for him. He's a great kid. He's had a few emotional days here. I'm sure he'll get plenty of rest.

Q. How do you think you defended when they were able to get some zone time on you, particularly the 'goal line back to the point' stuff they've been trying so much?
COACH SULLIVAN: I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job. They're tough to handle. When they're down low, they have a lot of big players that protect pucks extremely well. They use their points very well.
I thought we were in the shot lanes when we had the opportunity. We had a couple of layers of shot‑blockers. I thought our stick detail down low was pretty good as far as trying to get our stick on the puck, disrupting some of the possession so those passes to the points weren't clean. At least they had to handle them, which gave us an opportunity to get in the lanes.
But that's one of the strengths of their group. We know it. We're going to have to continue to work at that aspect of our game in order to keep them off the score sheet.

Q. Mike, you gave Conor a break during the Tampa Bay series. What were your concerns at that time? Obviously his response has been pretty positive.
COACH SULLIVAN: We just felt as a coaching staff he was wearing down a little bit. I'm probably stating the obvious to say he's not an overly big guy. When you're playing every other night, one of the hardest things about winning the Stanley Cup is the journey to get there. You're playing every other night for a long time. It's the most intense hockey all year long.
So our coaching staff felt as though he was wearing down a little bit. We talked to Conor about that. His competitive advantage is his quickness. So if he loses that step, he's not as effective as we know him to be, like he has been the last couple of games, and when he has the necessary energy to play the game that he needs to play.
By no means was it a slight on him or his contribution to this team. We're just trying to manage each player and their respective circumstances based on how we know them.
He's a guy that we try to watch his minutes. We think it's important that we monitor his workload so that he can keep his quickness and that competitive advantage that makes him as good as he is.

Q. A few weeks ago you said when Conor was recalled and put on Sid's line, he was too eager to get the puck back to Sid. What has been his evolution or progression that made him more confident to shoot the puck?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think when he first was called up this year, we put him with Sid right away, there was a 'wow' factor with some of the players in the room. My experience of being around this group is when a new player comes to our team, young or old for that matter, I think there's a little bit of a 'wow' factor because some of the players we have. Everybody has so much respect for Crosby and Malkin and Letang and those guys. Over time I think that wears off. I think that's happened with Conor.
I also think, you know, Sid and some of our older guys, when they spend time with these guys, they've really taken the young players under their wing. They've done a tremendous job just as far as being mentors for them, making them feel comfortable.
Just even in the small conversations on the bench, it goes a long way for helping these guys with their next shifts. I've witnessed that all year long with our veteran group, with some of our young players.
But I also think with each time that Conor's got called up, I think he has more of a comfort level of what the expectation is and how he has to play in order to be successful.
Part of me thinks that's the evolution of young players when they're trying to establish themselves in this league. There's a learning process that players go through. They realize how hard it is, that they've got to bring the same effort and the same performance and the same execution night after night after night.
That, I think, is what separates NHL players from the rest of the world, is their ability to continue to bring a consistency of play that comes to be the expectation. I think Conor has learned that. He's not the only one. The young players, I think they all go through that evolution.
I think for those reasons, we're seeing him produce the way he's playing right now.
Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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