Penguins search for answers, look for ways to end six-game losing streak
Try to have proper mindset heading into game against Senatorsby Wes Crosby / NHL.com Independent Correspondent
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are searching for answers.
When they face the Ottawa Senators at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, TSN5, RDS2, NHL.TV), it will have been two weeks since the Penguins won a game. They've lost six straight in regulation since defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on Feb. 18.
After practice Monday, there was no consensus on how to fix what ails a group that reached first place in the Metropolitan Division with that win against Toronto and is now third, three points behind the second-place Philadelphia Flyers and six behind the first-place Washington Capitals.
"You just want to get in the win column, regardless of where it is," captain Sidney Crosby said. "We've got to regroup here and get one here at home tomorrow night. … I don't know if it's been one thing. I think it's been different things. That's probably why we've gone that many games."
It is the first time the Penguins (37-21-6) have lost six in a row in regulation since Dec. 29, 2011-Jan. 11, 2012. They have been outscored 24-8 and shut out twice during the losing streak.
Video: Jones, Sharks power past Penguins in 5-0 rout
Crosby was a rookie the last time the Penguins lost at least seven straight games in regulation, a 10-game streak from Jan. 6-23, 2006. Pittsburgh finished second to last in the NHL that season (22-46-14).
The Penguins center has one goal in his past six games after he had 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in his first 13 games back from core muscle surgery. Crosby took the blame following a 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
"I put it on myself," Crosby said. "I've got to step up in key situations. When you're down like this, losing games, you need big plays, big performances. I haven't done that. That's on me."
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Crosby's ability to self-critique could help his teammates moving forward.
"I think Sid takes a lot of responsibility for this team," Sullivan said. "He takes so much ownership and pride in what he does personally, but also as a leader of the group. I just think he's a great leader. I think that's an indication of it."
After losing 4-0 to Toronto on Feb. 20 and 5-2 to the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 22, Sullivan said he was pleased with how Pittsburgh responded in a 5-3 road loss to Washington on Feb. 23. It played with a similar quality in a 2-1 loss at the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 26 and a 3-2 loss at the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 28.
Video: Muzzin, Andersen power Maple Leafs' 4-0 shutout win
Then the loss in San Jose left the Penguins frustrated.
"I think every good team hits a rough patch once in a while," defenseman Kris Letang said. "Usually the reflex is to try to do more and try to do too much, almost. Sometimes you just actually make it worse."
There might not be much more the Penguins could have done. They have outshot opponents 204-148 during the losing streak.
"For me, personally, you've just got to laugh at it," forward Jared McCann said. "What are you going to do? Are you going to sit there and mope? It'll just dig yourself deeper and it'll make it worse on you."
Defensemen Brian Dumoulin and John Marino could provide a boost if they return Tuesday. Each will be a game-time decision after taking full contact and participating in line rushes during practice Monday.
Dumoulin returned to his defense pair with Letang for the first time since having ankle surgery Dec. 1. Marino, who has been out following facial surgery, was on a pair with Marcus Pettersson after last playing Feb. 6.
Video: PIT@TBL: Marino buries Malkin's dish to trim deficit
The Penguins will be without forward Dominik Simon, who is week to week with an upper-body injury sustained Saturday.
Sullivan expects a certain level of commitment no matter who is able, or unable, to play.
"I just think the biggest thing is our own mindset and making sure that we try to be in the right frame of mind that gives ourselves the opportunity to play on our instincts and trust our instincts," Sullivan said. "My experience of being around players is that's when they're at their best. … These guys care an awful lot about what's going on and we know we have high expectations.
"When you don't meet those expectations, everybody feels it."