Penguins call a players-only meeting after Boston cruises to win
Ruslan Fedotenko gets into the face of Bruins goalie Tim Thomas in the first period last night at Mellon Arena.
Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins takes down Brooks Orpik in the second period last night at Mellon Arena. The streaking Bruins defeated the Penguins, 5-2.
Matt Cooke collides with Sidney Crosby in front of Bruins goalie Tim Thomas in the third period last night.
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The Eastern Conference standings put the gap between Boston and the Penguins at 18 points.
The Penguins can only hope the actual difference between them isn't even greater.
Boston's 5-2 victory at Mellon Arena last night was the Bruins' ninth in a row, and raised their record to 28-5-4. And there is nothing even remotely fluky about it.
The Bruins are skilled and efficient, confident and opportunistic. They make few mistakes, and are quick to capitalize on any their opponents commit.
The Penguins, conversely, have lost three of their past four games overall, and five of their past six on home ice. They are 19-14-4 and are clinging -- barely -- to seventh place in the conference.
And their prospects for immediate improvement aren't particularly good, considering that the Penguins face Boston tomorrow at 7:08 p.m. at TD Banknorth Garden, where the Bruins have won 13 in a row.
Indeed, the Penguins are troubled enough by how things have gone of late that they convened a players-only meeting immediately after the game.
"I think team attitude is the biggest thing," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "I don't know if it's poor. I think maybe it's just the approach or lack of preparation going into it.
"These are definitely the times that test the character. It's easy to be a good teammate when things are going well. I think when things are going rough like they are now, that's when you see each other's true colors.
"You would hope that everyone in the room kind of stays the path and works for a resolution here, but that's easier said than done sometimes."
Coach Michel Therrien said, "it's about time they had a meeting," and added that, "I'm anxious to see what's going to come out of this."
He probably isn't nearly as eager to get another look at the Bruins, who have established themselves as the dominant team in the East.
"They're 20 guys buying into a system and playing for each other," left winger Matt Cooke said. "That's a lesson we can learn from that team.
"It doesn't matter what system is in play. You have to have everyone buy in, and have everyone play to the best of their abilities. They're definitely getting that right now."
Therrien, meanwhile, suggested that some of his players -- he didn't identify them -- are focused more on individual objectives than those of the group.
"We've got to start thinking about the team concept, not personal agendas," he said. "Let's start from there. Team concept is the most important thing for any hockey team.
"Personal agendas, goals on the list of priorities for players should be the last one. Right now, the priority is not in the right place."
Although Boston had a 16-10 edge in shots during the first period, the Penguins got the only goal then as Petr Sykora backhanded a Ruslan Fedotenko rebound past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas at 17:00 for his 13th of the season. The second assist went to Dustin Jeffrey, his first point in the NHL.
Boston pulled even on a Zdeno Chara power-play goal at 4:46 of the second and converted on its next man advantage when Marc Savard put in a David Krejci set-up during a 4-on-3 at 9:30."
Pascal Dupuis tied it, 2-2, at 15:13, by lashing a slap shot over Thomas' glove from the top of the left circle for his ninth of the season. The goal was made possible by Sidney Crosby, who plucked a Chara clearing attempt out of the air along the right-wing boards, then put a cross-ice pass on Dupuis' stick.
Just 90 seconds later, however, the Bruins went in front to stay after Evgeni Malkin's pass in the Penguins' end caromed off a skate, triggering a sequence that ended with Rick Kessel steering in a Savard feed from the front lip of the crease.
Martin St. Pierre put the game out of reach with a shorthanded goal at 5:28 of the third, and Dennis Wideman rubbed it in by scoring from above the left circle at 9:38.
"We have a good team, and we know we can do better than we are right now," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "We have to find a way to win."
First Published December 31, 2008 12:00 am