Streaky Penguins Looking to Bounce Back

With winning streak snapped, Pens welcome Florida Tuesday

Josh Rowntree
January 07, 2019 - 1:50 pm
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) congratulates right wing Patric Hornqvist (72) on his goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period at PPG PAINTS Arena.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It has, without question, been a year of streaky play for the Penguins. 

From a 6-1-2 start, to losing nine of the next ten games, to the most recent eight-game winning streak, Pittsburgh has found itself on a roller coaster of a season.

With the good run snapped Sunday night in a 5-3 loss to Chicago, the Penguins will look for an immediate bounce back against another struggling team in Florida on Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena. 

“You want to get back on the winning track right away,” winger Patric Hornqvist said. “You know how good of a feeling it is in the room when you’re winning. It makes life so much more easy. It’s the best part of this League, you play every second day. So tomorrow we have a chance to get back on a winning streak.”

The Penguins have pulled themselves into a true battle atop the Metropolitan Division, sitting just two points behind rival Washington, with 52 points.

“You just want to stay on it,“ forward Matt Cullen said. “We put ourselves in a good spot and I think the most important part, for us, is that we keep our eye on where we want to be. We put ourselves right at the top of our division here. So we have to just keep staying the course. 

“I think we’ve found our recipe for success. As a group, we know what we need to do to be successful, so it’s a matter of going out and executing and bringing that energy. We’re happy that we’re back where we are and where we feel we belong, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got half a season ahead of us.”

It is assumed that Matt Murray will return to the net after getting a night off Sunday. Murray has been brilliant of late, allowing just 9 goals in his last seven games, including a 4-0 shutout win over Winnipeg on Friday. But now the challenge will be cutting off any possibility of another losing skid. 

“We want to win every game,” Murray said. “I don’t know if we treat this game any differently, honestly. Every game, I think it’s important to go out there with the same mindset and just try to win.”

“I think it’s normal,” captain Sidney Crosby said of the possibility of losing an edge after a handful of wins. “You go on a little streak like that and you lose one and I think you’ve just got to be able to regroup. 

“We did some really good things [against Chicago]. It’s not like we beat ourselves, necessarily. We had some opportunities that didn’t go in and that happens. You just have to be able to bring that same effort and be able to execute at a little higher level. That’s where our focus is right now.”

One area Pittsburgh will look to execute more in is special teams. The Penguins let up a power play goal and also two more goals right after power plays expired. Offensively, their power play went 0-for-3, including a missed opportunity on a 5-on-3 advantage late in the first period. Mike Sullivan and his players chalked it up to it just being an off night.

“Right now, we’re just trying to get better every day,” Sullivan said. “We’re trying to push this group to be at their very best each and every day. And we believe that as long as we control what we can in the short term down stay in the moment and don’t get ahead of ourselves, that results will come.”

Morale can swing dramatically with win dramatic streaks and, as the Penguins approach the All-Star break, there are still some questions as to exactly what this team is now and, more importantly, what is will become. But one thing is certain, a bounce-back win could propel the Penguins back into a hot streak, and could keep the locker room mood from slipping at all.

“On that eight-game winning streak, obviously it’s fun when you win,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “It’s fun to be around the locker room and stuff. When we have that success, we want it. This one loss, it can’t set us back. Obviously we’ve got a big game tomorrow.”

Hear all of what Penguins coach Mike Sullivan had to say below.