Penguins mostly no-shows while Carolina cruises to 4-1 win


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RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Penguins had just fallen behind by a couple of goals early in the second period Thursday night when coach Dan Bylsma called his timeout.

Seemed like a swell time to mention something to his 18 skaters about it being a work night, something all but a few hadn't seemed to notice.

But if Bylsma brought that up, the message didn't take, because most of the Penguins looked to be little more than disinterested onlookers for most of their 4-1 loss Thursday night against Carolina at PNC Arena.

They lost the majority of the battles in which they were involved and didn't bother taking part in some others. They have a day off today, but it's not because they left so much of themselves on the ice against the Hurricanes.

"Our focus has got to be on our work ethic and making sure it's there every night," center Sidney Crosby said. "We have to realize that we can't [just] show up and win.

"We're a good team, but we're a good team when we work hard as a group.

"We can't expect to show up in teams' buildings on the road and just put our gear on and expect to win."

He didn't need to point out that some excellent work by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is all that kept them from losing by a touchdown. Or more.

And two points weren't the only thing the Penguins lost.

Defenseman Paul Martin sat out the third period with an unspecified injury. His status for their game Saturday in Montreal is not known.

The game was Carolina center Jordan Staal's first against his former teammates, but it would be understandable if he really didn't recognize his old club.

The one he left last June had consistently been among the NHL's finest most of his time with it. The one Staal faced Thursday night suffered from the letdowns, lapses and lethargy that have slipped into the Penguins' game of late.

The Hurricanes owned the area around Fleury's crease most of the game, and that was reflected on the scoreboard.

"You could throw a blanket over the area [from which] they scored four goals," defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

Or perhaps a washcloth.

"We weren't very good in that area, and really left our goaltender out to dry," Bylsma said.

This isn't the only time that's happened recently, as evidenced by the total of 20 goals the Penguins have allowed over their past five games.

While that total is a bit inflated by the four power-play goals they allowed in a 6-4 loss Tuesday night at Florida, no one has accused them of being unduly stingy in their own end.

"That [goals-against total] goes hand-in-hand with the commitment to the details," winger Tanner Glass said.

"If you're not strong on your stick around our net or [committing] to coverage, you're going to give up chances. And chances turn into goals."

The Penguins opened the scoring for the 11th time in 12 road games, as Chris Kunitz converted a cross-ice feed from Crosby at 13:14 of the opening period.

That was an even-strength goal and, because it was the only one the Penguins scored against Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, their run of 12 consecutive games with a power-play goal ended.

Eric Staal, at the left edge of the crease, steered in an Alexander Semin pass with 24.1 seconds left in the first to tie the score, and Jiri Tlusty got what proved to be the winner by punching in an Eric Staal pass from the front lip of the crease at 4:03 of the second.

Jeff Skinner, who returned to the Hurricanes lineup after sitting out the past five games with a concussion, widened the lead to 3-1 by scoring from the right circle 106 seconds later.

Tlusty closed the scoring with 10.1 seconds to go in the period after he was left wide open right in front of the net.

"The sign of a good team, or the sign of a good player, is, if you make a mistake once, you don't make the same mistake again," Orpik said.

"And we made four similar mistakes."

But the most costly mistake the Penguins have made -- and repeated -- might be thinking that points don't have to be paid for with perspiration and passion.

"Every team we play against knows what to expect from us," Crosby said.

"They're willing to compete, and I think we've been outworked the last two games.

"There's no real excuse for that."

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published March 1, 2013 5:00 AM


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