Pens show character after lopsided losses

| Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009

The Penguins possess plenty of qualities that illustrate why they are the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Aside from their physical gifts, the Penguins are a team of immense pride. Their performance in the aftermath of difficult losses simply tells the story.

Only 48 hours after losing what probably was their biggest game of the regular season to date, the Penguins get a chance for redemption tonight at Mellon Arena against the Ottawa Senators. History says they will play well.

"I think there's a ton of pride in this locker room, and I think that's an important thing," captain Sidney Crosby said. "No one in this locker room likes losing, and we take a lot of pride in the fact that we will always work hard and always try to win every game."

The Penguins haven't lost much under coach Dan Bylsma, but some of their losses have been one-sided.

There is a common theme to these bad losses: Bylsma's team always returns with a vengeance during the next game.

Some notable disappointing performances — such as the inability to close out Philadelphia on home ice during Game 5 of the 2009 first round, and the Game 5 meltdown during the 2009 Stanley Cup Final in Detroit — were always followed with impressive Penguins victories.

"A lot of that has to do with our coach's mentality," Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz said. "You can't change the past. You just have to look at what you did wrong and carry it on to the next game. The New Jersey game definitely wasn't our best effort. We know that."

The team's resiliency was never more evident than in the 2009 postseason. Falling behind Washington and Detroit, two games to none, and roaring back to win each series is further proof that the Penguins are often at their best after disappointing losses.

Incidentally, Monday's loss to New Jersey did not sit well in the locker room.

"We weren't happy at all," Kunitz said. "There was definitely a somber tone in the room. We were extremely disappointed."

There was no sense of somberness, however, the next morning.

And Kunitz maintains having a positive attitude is an important thing.

"That's one of the reasons we rebound so well," he said. "We don't look back and dwell on things in the past that we know we can't change. We'll watch some video and get ready for the next game. That's all you can do."

The captain knows it is his responsibility to make sure his team can overcome bad losses. He appreciates the Penguins' ability to respond to losses.

It is probably no coincidence that the Penguins have only suffered a losing streak of more than two games once since Bylsma became coach in February. That losing streak, of course, largely was a result of the rash of injuries that struck the Penguins.

"I like that no one in this room likes to lose," Crosby said. "We always want to be the team that bounces back, that plays the game the right way. I think that says something about the character in this room."

Only two points behind New Jersey for the league's highest point total, the Penguins want to get on a roll.

It's only December, but the loss to the Devils stung. The Penguins want to redeem themselves quickly, which has become their norm.

"The thing is to avoid long losing streaks," Kunitz said. "You aren't going to win every game, but you want to avoid those skids. We've done a really good job of that."

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