Early struggles continue to haunt Pens

Sidney Crosby’s comments after Tuesday’s practice could apply to any of the Penguins recent performances.

“I mean, you’re gonna lose games. Sometimes you’re gonna play well and lose games,” Crosby said. “Other times you’re not gonna be happy with your play and I think last game would fit in to that category. We weren’t happy with the way we played, especially the first period. So we’ll be looking to bounce back here in Montreal.”

What made Monday night different from recent games was that the team felt compelled to hold a closed-door meeting to discuss the slow starts. Coming out of the meeting, it appears evident the problems have been mental and focus-driven.

“I think that we can be certain and pretty clear that, physically, we were ready to work,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “But a lot of work is mentally applying yourself. That’s where we were not as sharp as we needed to be.

“That’s something we talked about this morning … and have to be better at in the future.”

By looking at the statistics from the Penguins most recent loss — 3-2 at home to Carolina — it’s pretty clear that effort wasn’t an issue. The Penguins outshot the Hurricanes, 32-21, and controlled the puck and the play for the majority of the game.

The big problem was they didn’t do those things in the opening period. Also, Carolina scored the first goal.

The Penguins have failed to score the opening goal in the last six games and in seven of the last eight. For the most part, they’ve been fortunate to come away with wins. However Monday was a reminder that, regardless of the competition, a lack of focus can lead to losses.

“It’s more mental,” Crosby said. “I think you have to be ready to battle hard and move your feet and do all the little detail things that really are the difference to winning and losing. For whatever reason, we weren’t committed to doing those things in the first period and it hurt us.

“We can’t let that happen and that can’t be acceptable.”

The positive from Monday’s loss — if there really is one after losing the NHL’s worst team — is that the Penguins responded with two good periods of play. They outshot the Canes 15-4 in the second period and scored two goals.

Against Chicago, the Pens allowed the first goal but played well and eventually tied the game in the third period to send the game to overtime and earn a point in the standings in a 2-1 overtime loss.

Colorado scored five minutes in to the game on Thursday and the Penguins responded with four unanswered goals in a 4-1 win.

I definitely think we have that type of character in the room,” Max Talbot said when asked about the team’s ability to respond to adversity both in game situations and throughout the season.

“You never wanna lose games. You never want losing streaks. Obviously last game was disappointing — the last two results were disappointing. I don’t think we played that bad against Chicago at all. Last game, obviously, the first period was disappointing. I think this team has the character to bounce back with a big performance against Montreal.”

They’ll need to, considering the Canadiens are 10-1 when scoring first this season.

Chris | PPT

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