December 12, 2015 / 7:23 PM / 3 years ago

Penguins fire Johnston as coach, name Sullivan

(Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Penguins have fired coach Mike Johnston and replaced him with Mike Sullivan, the team said on Saturday.

Mike Johnston gestures behind the bench against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Johnston, who was in his second season coaching the Penguins, had steered them to a 15-10-3 record this season after a 3-2 shootout loss at home to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday to sit fifth in the Metropolitan Division.

Overall, Johnston compiled a 58-37-15 record with the high-profile club led by former MVPs Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin that stood 28th in scoring this season.

“I felt it was time for a coaching change because our team has underachieved,” general manager Jim Rutherford told the Penguins website (

“Our expectations are much higher with this group of players.”

Sullivan, 47, was in his first season coaching Pittsburgh’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, posting an 18-5-0 record to lead the Atlantic Division.

He previously coached two seasons with the Boston Bruins, winning a division title in 2003-04 and going 70-56-31 overall.

“Mike Sullivan has been a head coach and an assistant coach in the NHL and we’ve been very fortunate to have him with our AHL club this season,” Rutherford said. “He’s ready to step in.”

Assistant coach Gary Agnew was fired along with Johnston.

The Penguins scraped into the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, needing a win against the Buffalo Sabres on the final day of the regular season to secure the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

The were eliminated in the first round by the New York Rangers in a five-game series.

Sullivan has been an assistant coach for the Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. He was a player development coach for the Chicago Blackhawks last season when they won the Stanley Cup.

Sullivan will coach his first game with the Penguins on Monday at home against the Washington Capitals with Rick Tocchet and Jacques Martin serving as his assistants.

Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Ken Ferris

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