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June 8, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Postgame

Pittsburgh - 6, Nashville - 0

Q. Mike, after the game Bryan Rust made reference to a couple of adjustments you guys asked the players to make. Do you think tonight's success was largely a result of following whatever you guys had asked them to do or was this more about raw execution on the players' part?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I just think it's about our players. I think our players had a will to win. And when they play inspired hockey the way they did tonight and execute the way we did tonight, I think we're a competitive team and we're a dangerous team. So I give our players so much credit for their preparation, their determination.

And listen, everybody realizes the importance of this one, and so I think our players deserve a lot of credit.

Q. Do you notice resiliency in the morning? Is there a sense around the team, like the first shift? When do you notice these guys are keyed into doing that?
MIKE SULLIVAN: It's a good question. I think at this point we just have so much trust in the leadership, that they'll respond the right way. I don't know that there's any cues that we can -- or any body language that we can read off of in a given circumstance to say, hey, they're ready to play. I think this team has a certain businesslike approach to it every day, and the way they go about it, and it starts with our veteran players and leadership group. These guys, they just get it, and so they understand the importance of response games and making sure that we have the right mindset going into these types of games. And they have a lot of experience to draw on, as well.

So our coaching staff has established so much trust and confidence in this group of players that we just come to believe that they'll respond the right way because they've shown so much evidence to do it.

Q. I've seen Sidney Crosby do a lot of sensational things over the years, but the couple times in these Playoffs he's had starts like he had tonight where it almost looked like he was establishing that his will was going to be on this game. When in coaching him did you sort of get a feel for what allows him to do that?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Early on. You know, early on. You can see his desire in his day-to-day approach. And I've said this on so many occasions: What I've really grown to admire and respect about Sid is not only is he a talented player, because there's a lot of talented players; I just think he has such a drive to be the best, and he's willing to do what it takes. He doesn't just show up to the rink and put his equipment on. He controls everything within his power to be the very best. He controls his diet. He lives the right way. His off-ice habits are exceptional.

He sets such an example for the rest of the group on how to control what you can to give yourself every chance to be successful. And so I saw it early on, he just -- he has so much care for this organization and trying to help his team win, and he happens to be just an ultra-talented guy that's a really good player. I just think what separates him is his drive. I don't know that I've been around an athlete, not just a hockey player but an athlete, that is as driven as Sid is.

Q. Building off of your point, how did Sidney Crosby set the tone for your entire team early on in this game?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I just think from the opening shift. You can see his drive and his appetite to win. He sets the tone right off the bat. We get a power play, we score on the power play. I think when you can start a game that way, it puts a team on their heels. It gives our team momentum that I think allows us to build on.

So I think that's an indication of his leadership and his will to win, and so, you know, I think Sid really understands the opportunity that this team has, and he's not taking anything for granted. He's as driven an athlete as I've seen. He's as hungry as I've seen a player, and I just -- I think he -- I just think he understands it. He sees the opportunity in front of us, and he's doing everything within his power to try to help us be successful.

Q. How has Jake Guentzel continued to produce and be effective the farther you go here and the harder this gets?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I just think Jake is a really good hockey player. He's got great hockey sense. He's a competitive guy. I think he has a quiet confidence about him. He knows he's a good player. He knows that he can help this team win. And he's done that throughout the course of this Playoffs. No stage is too big for him. You know, he has great poise with the puck in all zones.

You never see a panic. You never see a panic play with him. He's always hanging on to the puck and looking for his next play. If he doesn't have one, he protects it. He buys time.

There's so many subtleties to his game, I think, that make him the player that he is, and I also think that's what allows him to play with players like Sid. He's a real good player. I think his body of work here from the second half of this season throughout the course of the Playoffs speaks for itself.

Q. The scoreboard certainly said tonight was the team's best performance defensively; is that how you saw it? And did Matt, I guess, need that after the last couple games and your conversations with him?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I thought it was the best game that we've played in this series. I don't know that Matt -- you know, Matt doesn't need anything. Matt, I think, understands his game and how he needs to play in order to help this team win, and he believes in himself and we believe in him.

You know, he makes timely saves for us. He made a handful tonight that we needed, and we believe he'll do that. That's what he's done since he's been a Penguin.

But as far as our team's overall game, that is, hands down, the best game that we've played in this series to this point. I believe this team has gotten better with each game that it's played.

We said that after coming out of Game 4 in Nashville. There was a lot to like about that game. We felt as though there was a lot to like about that game. I think sometimes people can get fooled by the scores of games, but we don't. We understand it. And I think we try to keep an objective assessment of our games.

We knew coming out of the first two games that we probably didn't play our best and were fortunate to be in the position that we were in, and we felt as though we played a little bit better than the results we got in Nashville.

I think we've got a realistic assessment of where our team is at. We believe that we're gaining traction and momentum with each game that we play, and we understand that the next one is going to be the hardest, and so we're going to have to reset our mindset and be ready to play that game.

Q. Mike, how important was it to have two days off after the fourth game to this game and come to the rink and do what you did?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I think at this time of year, this particular group of players has played a lot of hockey games, and so any time they get an opportunity to get a little bit more rest in between games, it certainly, I think, serves both teams well, not just ours. Nashville has played a lot of hockey, as well.

I think it makes for a higher quality game, more pace to it, better execution, and I think you saw that in some of the plays that were made out there tonight.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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