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Penguins

Not pleased with recent play, Penguins reject idea of rift on team

| Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, 8:39 p.m.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang checks Devils right wing Bobby Farnham during the second period Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Newark, N.J.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang checks Devils right wing Bobby Farnham during the second period Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Newark, N.J.

Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby insisted the Penguins are not “mad at each other” as Malkin said late Saturday in New Jersey.

That doesn't mean they're happy.

Or accepting of a power play that's second worst in the NHL.

Or fine with an offense that's producing barely more than two goals per game and is ranked 27th in the league.

“I don't think guys are mad at each other,” Crosby said after practice Monday at Consol Energy Center. “I think guys are frustrated that we're not doing better. It doesn't mean we're mad at each other, that there's a divide in the room.

“We all believe in one another. Ultimately, we're all frustrated. We all feel like we can do better. The expectations are high. I don't see that being a bad thing.”

Malkin clarified Monday that his “mad at each other” comment was supposed to mean that the Penguins grew frustrated with their performance during a 4-0 loss, easily their worst collective performance of the season.

The miscommunication was because of the language barrier more than anything else.

“It's not what I wanted to say,” Malkin said. “We're a pretty tight team. We support each other.

“In New Jersey, we started to get frustrated. It's a little bit new for us, a new team. We don't like how we're playing.”

At this rate, Malkin and Crosby would finish the season with 19 and nine goals, respectively. Point-wise, you're looking at 58 and 43. For the two franchise centers, neither is palatable, or if logic prevails, sustainable.

Such an idea was one of the primary themes to come out of an almost defiant Penguins locker room Monday.

“What are we, 10-7?” Phil Kessel wondered. “I think we'll be all right.”

So will the power play, Kris Letang insisted.

“We've been simple at times. We didn't score,” Letang said. “It's a percentage that is thrown in the papers, and people (cite) statistics. If all those chances go in, nobody's asking questions.”

Crosby said last week that the power play should be “flowing” better than it is, given the personnel. Their problems have been many, from “choppy” breakouts to simply not shooting. Letang, for example, has two shot attempts on the power play over the past four games.

Crosby said it all boils down to one thing: Frustration.

“It's not acceptable,” Crosby said. “We work at it, but it comes down to executing in games and finding ways to be better. Those numbers aren't good enough for the group we have.”

They have been enough to elicit frustration from players, who had a closed-door meeting Saturday preceding Malkin's comments.

Coach Mike Johnston heard what Malkin said — it should be noted that he purposely avoids reading or listening to anything about this team — and didn't mind one bit.

“Guys were mad. I was mad. Our coaching staff was mad,” Johnston said. “Nobody liked the game we played. It was not a good game. There was no reason for it. There can't be any reasons for it.

“Our effort went down as the game went along. That's unacceptable. That can't happen. Speaking from the heart, you like players that do that. Geno is an emotional type of guy like that. I'm glad players were upset.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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