Devils, Penguins look to end 3-game skids
The New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins each lug a three-game losing streak into their Metropolitan Division matchup Monday at PPG Paints Arena, but the demeanor of each club is vastly different.
The Devils (5-5-1) felt as if they turned a corner in a good way Saturday despite a 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders, while Pittsburgh (6-3-3) was left reeling after a 5-0 loss the same night against Toronto.
New Jersey coach John Hynes talked about there being steps to getting out of a funk, and he thinks his team has taken a big one.
“Lots of times when you come out of it your play has to be better first,” he said. “Lots of times you don’t come out of these with a win; you come out of it by playing better and playing better and playing better.
“If we can build on our work ethic and how we played (Saturday), then we’re going to put ourselves in situations to win games.”
Before the Islanders game, the Devils lost two games by a combined 12-6. New Jersey goaltender Keith Kinkaid noticed a difference Saturday, describing that game as “a little setback” when the team “ran into a hot goalie.”
“There’s plenty of season left,” Kinkaid said. “We’re just going through a little spell. Everything’s a learning curve. We have a young team. We’ve just got to keep sticking with it.”
Winger Taylor Hall, the defending Hart Trophy winner, thought the Devils were more competitive and better defensively.
“It seems like for the most part we have a grasp for how we need to play in our own end right now,” Hall said. “Comparing our game (Saturday) to the last couple, there was a lot of improvement in a lot of areas. It’s a good building-block game for how we need to play going forward.”
The Penguins, meanwhile, spent Sunday trying to simply remind themselves of what those building blocks are.
“We’ve got to try to reinforce the details and the work ethic associated with winning, and that was part of the practice (Sunday), was trying to make sure that we get back to basics and that we focus on the process and the details associated with winning — and with our team it starts with skating,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said.
The Penguins were riding high after a 4-0 road trip through Canada, but the three-game losing streak (0-2-1) has immediately followed.
“Right now we’re down, and we have to … find ourselves a little bit,” winger Patric Hornqvist said.
After being outskated and outworked Saturday by the Maple Leafs, there was plenty of soul-searching.
Defenseman Kris Letang said the Penguins were “flat” and that “there was no emotion.”
Sullivan, rarely critical of his club, said the past week has taken a toll.
“This league has a funny way of humbling you. Right now I think we’ve been humbled,” he said.
Pittsburgh winger Matt Cullen, the oldest player in the NHL, has been around plenty long enough to know that even just a month into the season, a lull without a correction can lead to things going sideways.
“We have to dig down and find a way to turn things around,” he said. “I don’t have any question that we will, but we don’t have any time to waste.”