Lottery-bound Hurricanes bury listless Penguins at Consol
The Penguins already have had their players-only meeting.
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.
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.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers sign former ACC Player of the Year Boyd for QB depth
- Mother, baby found dead in Millvale apartment
- Polamalu could be next in long line of Steelers greats given unceremonial exit
- Pittsburgh firefighters agree to 4-year contract
- Rossi: Kang would benefit from less attention
- Search for bomb turns up nothing at Kittanning school
- Wolf reverses Corbett, says deal between Highmark, UPMC doesn’t limit continuity of care to very ill
- Pirates pitcher Locke fighting for 5th spot in starting rotation
- Weather continues to cause crashes, public transportation delays
- Penguins’ Lovejoy embracing defensive pairing with Pouliot
- Heidelberg bar shut down for not paying drink tax