It's obvious that coach Michel Therrien did not expect the Penguins to have such an ordinary power play.
And that, with a quarter of the season gone, he's more than a little frustrated about it, too.
So it was no surprise that, after watching his team go 0 for 4 with the man advantage in their 3-1 loss yesterday to Vancouver at Mellon Arena, Therrien didn't hesitate when asked to explain his team's chronic inability to capitalize on its chances with the extra man.
His capsule critique: There's too much emphasis on style -- and not enough on sweat -- when the other team is down a man.
"We don't have the right attitude out there," Therrien said. "It can't be tic-tac-toe all the time. There are times when you have to battle. ... Anytime there's a battle, most of the time we lose those battles.
"The penalty killers on other teams outwork our power play. It's pretty simple. That's the reason we struggle. Until they change that attitude, until they change their work ethic, it's not going to work.
"We might do a tic-tac-toe play every once in a while but, other than that, we're getting outworked by every penalty-killing [unit] in the league now, whatever team we play. If we're not working, it's not going to work."
The Penguins (12-5-3) had three chances with the extra man in the first period yesterday -- including one 25 seconds into the game and another that coincided with a groin injury suffered by Roberto Luongo, Vancouver's all-world goalie, with less than five minutes gone -- and only occasionally flirted with scoring, like when Petr Sykora chipped a shot off the left goal post a minute into the first man advantage.
"We have to find a way to capitalize on those chances," center Sidney Crosby said. "A tight game like that, there's not a ton of opportunities out there, so the power play, and special teams in general, are big."
The Penguins are 1 for 12 with the man advantage in their past three games and have scored more than one power-play goal just once in their past 14 games. A personnel shake-up on the power play seems likely before the Penguins visit Long Island Wednesday.
"We're going to have to [make] some decisions, because that doesn't work," Therrien said. "That's enough."
The Penguins caught Vancouver at the end of a four-game road trip that took it from New York to Minnesota to Pittsburgh and playing its third game in less than four days. What's more, the Canucks lost Luongo before the game really got going.
None of that seemed to matter for most of the afternoon, although the Penguins were able to carry the play for much of the final period.
"[The Canucks] played really well," Therrien said. "They worked hard. There's a reason they're the hottest team in the league. ... They deserved to win."
Vancouver's chances of doing that seemed to take a major hit at 4:54 of the first, when Luongo was hurt making a routine save on a long shot by Penguins defenseman Philippe Boucher. He was helped to the locker room and replaced by Curtis Sanford, who faced just 10 shots over the next 35-plus minutes.
Sanford never had to play from behind, as Pavol Demitra put Vancouver in front by banking a shot off the pads of Penguins goalie Dany Sabourin from the right side of the crease at 18:05 of the first period.
Daniel Sedin got what proved to be the winning goal when he swiped his own rebound past Sabourin at 6:50 of the second.
The Penguins regained their focus during the second intermission and Mike Zigomanis got them within a goal just 22 seconds into the third by putting a shot between Sanford's legs from the inner edge of the left circle for his second of the season, but they couldn't generate the goal that would have forced overtime. Demitra closed out the scoring with an empty-netter at 19:48.
"We played a good, solid road game against one of the best offensive teams in the league," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "We were able to get a couple of goals in the first 30 minutes and then we did a pretty good job of shutting them down."
And so the Penguins ended up with a rather sour, though well-deserved, ending to a mostly satisfying first quarter of their season.
"We didn't have the right attitude to play that game," Therrien said. "They worked harder than us. They deserved to win."
Dave Molinari can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published November 23, 2008 5:00 AM