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Penguins' loss leads to players-only meeting

Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008

Try as they might, the Penguins cannot recapture chemistry that clearly hasn't carried over from last season.

They'll try, and perhaps that attempt began Tuesday night with a players-only meeting after a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at Mellon Arena - a fifth loss in six home games to cap a 5-8-1 December.

However, center Jordan Staal is not alone among the team's young nucleus to realize all is not well with the defending Eastern Conference champions.

"We're not working together as a team," said Staal, who failed to score in a sixth consecutive game. "We're not supporting each other enough.

"It's (on the ice) and on the bench as well ... chemistry is still something we've got to work on. Chemistry is part of working together, and we're not doing that right now."

Captain Sidney Crosby, who failed to score a goal for the 12th of 14 games, would not divulge details of the postgame meeting, but coach Michel Therrien said "it's about time they called (it)."

"You've got to show some leadership," Therrien said. "I'm interested to see what's going to come up from this."

Ideally, what comes up will be a commitment to team-first hockey that Therrien hasn't seen much of dating to Nov. 20, when the Penguins capped a 7-0-1 tear with a win at Atlanta.

The loss last night dropped them to 7-10-1 since, and it's noteworthy that the only players to address the club's struggles were Staal, Crosby, defenseman Brooks Orpik and left wing Matt Cooke - the only of the so-called new guys acquired by general manager Ray Shero to replace six forwards from the 2008 Stanley Cup final roster.

Therrien said last night the Penguins' "disappointing" results are the fault of neither "the new guys (nor) the old guys."

"We're a team," Therrien said. "We have to respond as a team."

Those words came only seconds after he delivered this assessment of the Penguins (19-14-4, 42 points), who are closer to ninth-place Carolina than Eastern Conference-leading Boston (28-5-4, 60 points).

"We have to start thinking about the team concept, not personal agenda," Therrien said, never raising his voice above conversational tone. "The team concept is the most important thing for any hockey team. The personal agenda on the list of priorities for players should be the last one.

"Right now, the priority is not at the right place."

The Bruins were in most of the right places last night to win their ninth in a row. No. 10 could come Thursday in a rematch against the Penguins at TD Banknorth Garden, where the Bruins have won 13 in a row.

In improving to 23-2-1 in their past 26 games, the Bruins outscored the Penguins, 2-0, in the third period last night. They entered the final frame with a 3-2 lead thanks to right wing Phil Kessel's 23rd goal at 16:43 of the second - only 1:30 after the Penguins had tied the score on a goal from left wing Pascal Dupuis, who tallied for the third time in five games.

Underrated Bruins center Marc Savard scored his 12th goal and recorded two assists, and Boston went 2-for-8 on the power play.

The Penguins, who led after the first period on right wing Petr Sykora's 13th goal, finished 0-for-2 on the advantage, and Crosby said their limited chances were of their own doing.

"We're not putting ourselves in position to draw penalties as often as we'd like," Crosby said. "When you get caught chasing a lot, when you make bad decisions with the puck, when you have to chase from behind - when that happens, you hook or you hold, and that's just something that comes with making little mistakes."

Their biggest mistake may be presuming all will be well just because it has been in the second half of the past two seasons.

"The attitude is a little off right now," Orpik said. "It's easy to be a good team when you're winning games. When you're going through rough batches like this, it's what tests guys' character."




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