Devils extend Penguins' losing streak to four

| Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012

The conscience of the Penguins spoke his mind following a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils at Consol Energy Center on Saturday.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik isn't happy that the Penguins are on the verge of falling out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and he hopes he isn't alone.

"The accountability in this room has to be a lot better," Orpik said. "We aren't reacting to adversity very well right now. You can't feel sorry for yourselves."

The adversity Orpik speaks of pertains to the injuries that have bombarded the Penguins' stars. They played against the Devils without center Sidney Crosby (headaches), defenseman Kris Letang (concussion) and center Jordan Staal (knee).

Still, the Penguins were able to overcome injuries to their stars last season and emerged as the No. 4 seed in the East. Pending the result of Washington's game in San Jose late Saturday night, the Penguins could find themselves waking up today in the ninth spot.

There is a sense of frustration in the Penguins' locker room that was not evident last season, and it appears to be translating to the ice. The Penguins threw 42 shots at New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur, yet there was a lifeless feel to their performance in the final two periods.

"One goal's not going to do it," Orpik said. "You can pick apart every goal they get, but one goal isn't going to do it. Don't care if we got 50 or 60 shots on net. One goal isn't going to do it."

Like the 3-1 loss to the Rangers the night before, the Penguins fell apart in the second period against the Devils. They allowed two goals and three breakaways that period. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, playing in his 400th career game, stopped two of the breakaways but was unable to stop the Devils from taking the lead.

"I thought the energy was actually great last night," Orpik said. "Once they scored a couple of goals on us, our attitude changed. You can't hang your head and feel sorry for yourself like that. It won't get you anywhere."

The Penguins started the third period by taking a penalty, which led to New Jersey's third goal. Evgeni Malkin, who scored the Penguins' only goal, found himself in the penalty box when the score reached 3-1.

"No accountability," Orpik said. "We gave up another short-handed goal. We give up breakaways. Another dumb penalty. The accountability has got to be a lot better."

The Penguins have scored five goals in their past four games during the four-game skid. This is only the third time during coach Dan Bylsma's tenure that the Penguins have lost four consecutive games.

"It felt just like the night before," Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "It's really deflating. We were in control of the game, then I hit the post on a power play. It was just a huge momentum swing."

It was a momentum swing that the Penguins was never able to reverse.

They return home against Ottawa on Tuesday before embarking on a road trip in Washington, Florida and Tampa Bay.

The Penguins probably won't be any healthier by then. Should they keep losing, a sixth straight trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs will continue to look shaky.

"You're going to hit bumps in the road, and this is obviously one of them," Penguins right wing James Neal said. "You don't like to let them drag on, and this one has gone on longer than we'd like. We have a lot of hockey left, and we need to stop it now and correct it and get back on the right way. We know we're a better team than this."

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