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Lottery-bound Hurricanes bury listless Penguins at Consol

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes celebrate Eric Staal's third-period goal against the Penguins on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes celebrate Eric Staal's third-period goal against the Penguins on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Linesman Jonny Murray tries to hold back the Penguins' Sidney Crosby as he goes after the Hurricanes' Jay Harrison at the end of the game Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Linesman Jonny Murray tries to hold back the Penguins' Sidney Crosby as he goes after the Hurricanes' Jay Harrison at the end of the game Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes' Elias Lindholm beats Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for a second-period goal Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes' Elias Lindholm beats Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for a second-period goal Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby goes after the Hurricanes' Jay Harrison late in the third period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby goes after the Hurricanes' Jay Harrison late in the third period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Jayson Megna forechecks the Hurricanes' Brett Bellemore in the first period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Jayson Megna forechecks the Hurricanes' Brett Bellemore in the first period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin stops the Penguins' Brian Bibbons on a penalty shot in the first period Tuesday , April 1, 2014 at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin stops the Penguins' Brian Bibbons on a penalty shot in the first period Tuesday , April 1, 2014 at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes' Jeff Skinner celebrates with Elias Lindholm in front of the Penguins' Deryk Engelland after Lindholm's second-period goal Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes' Jeff Skinner celebrates with Elias Lindholm in front of the Penguins' Deryk Engelland after Lindholm's second-period goal Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates with Chris Kunitz after Kuntiz's first-period goal against the Hurricanes on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates with Chris Kunitz after Kuntiz's first-period goal against the Hurricanes on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes' Elias Lindholm (right) celebrates his second-period goal against the Penguins on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes' Elias Lindholm (right) celebrates his second-period goal against the Penguins on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin makes a third-period save on the Penguins' Brandon Sutter on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin makes a third-period save on the Penguins' Brandon Sutter on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes' Jay Harrison defends the Penguins' Beau Bennett in the third period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes' Jay Harrison defends the Penguins' Beau Bennett in the third period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes' Justin Faulk defends the Penguins' Sidney Crosby in the third period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes' Justin Faulk defends the Penguins' Sidney Crosby in the third period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes' Jeff Skinner celebrates Justin Faulk's first-period goal against the Penguins Tuesday , April 1, 2014 at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes' Jeff Skinner celebrates Justin Faulk's first-period goal against the Penguins Tuesday , April 1, 2014 at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes' Andrej Sekera knocks the Penguins' Sidney Crosby into goalie Anton Khudobin in the second period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes' Andrej Sekera knocks the Penguins' Sidney Crosby into goalie Anton Khudobin in the second period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes' Riley Nash defends the Penguins' Jason Megna in the third period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes' Riley Nash defends the Penguins' Jason Megna in the third period Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

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Four Penguins have won the NHL scoring title. Those players also have produced the most 100-point seasons in franchise history:

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 9:52 p.m.
 

The Penguins already have had their players-only meeting.

What now?

After a 4-1 loss to the lottery-bound Carolina Hurricanes at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday night, defenseman Brooks Orpik said he is “not too worried” about an 8-8-2 slide since the NHL broke for the Winter Olympics.

Coach Dan Bylsma waited 14 seconds before addressing that topic when asked about it in his postgame media session.

“The word ‘worried,' ” Bylsma said, “I guess when you look at the last six games and the inconsistency of our play, I don't think any player looks at that and says we're all right with that.”

Orpik, the longest-tenured Penguin, was joined only by fellow veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi and captain Sidney Crosby inside a somber dressing room as reporters entered.

Actually, winger Brian Gibbons was there, too, but unlike the other veterans at their locker stalls, he was not a member of the Penguins squads that lost in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final and returned to win it the next season.

What is happening to the Penguins is not about Gibbons, one of four players who dressed against Carolina but who were not with the club to open the season.

It is not about the league-high 479 man-games lost to injury, players and coaches have insisted.

Those players and coaches also have said it is not about a lack of urgency since around New Year's Day. The Penguins (48-23-5, 101 points) need only one point from their final six games to wrap the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference's No. 2 playoff seed.

Whatever this rough patch is about seems to elude those who are part of it.

“That's one of those things about the grind — 82 games — making sure you prepare yourself mentally and make sure you're 100 percent ready,” Orpik said. “It doesn't matter what team you're playing, even if they're at the bottom of the standings. If you're not 100 percent, they can expose you and make you look pretty silly.

“That's what happened here (Tuesday night).”

The Penguins led 1-0 on winger Chris Kunitz's goal. Crosby's secondary assist gave him 100 points in a season for the fifth time.

However, Crosby's evening was more memorable for his pro wrestling-like slamming of Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison late in regulation, which seemingly was a first for Crosby in the NHL.

The Penguins once held a 13-1 lead in shots. That was about 12 minutes into the game.

The Hurricanes finished on a 27-18 run and rocked the Penguins for four consecutive goals.

“We kept it simple and kind of frustrated them,” said center Eric Staal, whose Hurricanes had lost in a shootout at Ottawa on Monday.

One of Carolina's goals against the Penguins — center Elias Lindholm's first of two markers in the second period — came on the power play. Nothing new for the Penguins, who were at 87.0 percent (23 for 177) on the penalty kill before the Olympics but are at 79.3 percent (46 of 58) since.

With two weeks before the start of the playoffs, the Penguins are trending like a bottom-five team on the penalty kill even though they officially are ranked fourth.

They were first overall once.

They also owned the East's best point total. They even had a shot at the NHL's best record.

A week ago, a players-only meeting was called after a listless home defeat against Phoenix. Teammates said Orpik spoke up about a lack of discipline.

No meeting happened Tuesday night, though Crosby said the Penguins “maybe thought … we could get away with cheating (work ethic).”

“And it didn't work,” Crosby said.

Not much has worked consistently, Bylsma conceded.

Everybody took two weekend wins — at Columbus and at home against defending champion Chicago — as signs of progress toward playoff-quality performance.

What now?

Bylsma, after another long pause, said those games were “indications of our team being in the right spot.”

“This game is not,” he said. “We're going on the road for three games, and two out of three isn't an indication we're in the right spot.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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