Penguins notebook: Crosby still seeks better results


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CALGARY, Alberta — Sidney Crosby sat at his locker stall late Saturday night at Scotiabank Saddledome while most of his Penguins teammates were packing their equipment bags and scurrying about.

For much of the Penguins’ three-game trip through western Canada, the team captain and uber popular player in his home country had been swarmed by herds of reporters and fans at every opportunity.

Now that the trip was ending, Crosby was left to sit quietly, and he seemed to be in a reflective mood that didn’t necessarily jibe with the just-ended 2-1 win against the Calgary Flames.

The Penguins went 2-0-1 at Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. They don’t play again until Wednesday when the Washington Capitals visit Consol Energy Center, and that’s their only game in an eight-day stretch.

While acknowledging the benefits of the western trip and the time off, Crosby, the NHL’s leading scorer with 67 points in 47 games, made it clear he isn’t satisfied with the way the club is playing.

“It’s good to come out here and get five out of six [points],” he said. “That being said, I think we’ve always kind of evaluated ourselves on how we play, and not necessarily just results.

“I think we feel like we’ve still got more to give and can get better. To come out here and get those points — especially before we get a couple of games in the next nine, 10 days — we’ve got to make sure we build off of it.”

The Penguins gave up two third-period goals 17 seconds apart Tuesday at Vancouver before they answered with two late goals 16 seconds apart — one of them by Crosby — before Crosby scored the shootout-deciding goal in a 5-4 win.

At Edmonton Friday, the Oilers erased 2-0 and 3-2 Penguins leads for a 4-3 overtime win. Saturday, the Penguins again had a 2-0 lead after two periods, but this time held on for a win. Edmonton is last in the Western Conference, Calgary second to last.

“I still think we can improve and be better with leads. We’ve got to try to control the play a little bit more,” Crosby said. “I still think we can get to that point where we really just don’t give teams anything. That’s where you want to get.”

Defenseman Matt Niskanen is willing to have the team take what it can from the trip.

“It was a road trip out west against some young, hungry teams that are not easy to play against,” he said. “They’re not high in the standings, but that doesn’t make them easy to play against. We do get five out of six points. We thought we could have had six, but all in all I think we’ll learn from it, and we’ll take it.”

A changed man

Brooks Orpik, 33, is the second-oldest defenseman on the Penguins’ roster. He recently was named to the United States Olympic team for the second time in his career after earning a silver medal in 2010 in Vancouver.

Don’t try to tell this veteran — the oldest member of Team USA — that his game is the same as it was going into his first Winter Olympics.

“I better have changed,” Orpik said. “You’d better try to improve every day. I don’t know if you can necessarily, at this point in my career, get faster or my hands get all that much better.

“You can work on stuff and small improvements. But you can definitely get a lot smarter by watching video and then just through experience, learning from certain situations.”

Orpik, an alternate captain, is the longest-tenured Penguins player, drafted in the first round in 2000 and closing in on 700 games, but he’s as far removed from complacent as he can be.

“Look at this organization,” he said. “Our top six or seven prospects are all defensemen. You’d better be improving every day if you want to keep the job.”

In 39 games, Orpik has 1 goal, 9 assists, a plus-minus rating of plus-2, just 12 penalty minutes, leads the team with 79 blocked shots and is second on the team with 107 hits.

Tip-ins

There was no indication Sunday that the NHL planned to schedule a disciplinary hearing with Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. He received a match penalty in the third period Saturday for a hit on Calgary captain Mark Giordano. … The Penguins had a scheduled day off Sunday. … Crosby’s seven-game points streak came to an end Saturday. It was just the third time this season with Crosby and center Evgeni Malkin in the lineup that neither had a point. The Penguins are 1-2 in those games.


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.

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