PITTSBURGH (AP) -- For the first time in a season in which rookie
Sidney Crosby has exceeded all expectations and his Pittsburgh
Penguins have met none of theirs, Crosby is questioning his
teammates' lack of effort.
Marian Gaborik stole the puck from forward Shane Endicott and
scored barely a minute into the game, setting the tone for the
Minnesota Wild's 5-0 rout Thursday night that ran the Penguins'
losing streak to six games in their latest contest without Mario
Alexandre Daigle, a former Penguins player, ended a 14-game
stretch without a goal by scoring twice and Wes Walz and Brian
Rolston also scored for the Wild, which had lost four in a row and
five of six.
After such a poor effort against a slumping opponent, longtime
scoring star Mark Recchi said it might have been "the low point of
my career." Crosby, whose career is nearly 20 years shorter than
Recchi's, obviously agreed.
"I don't know if the effort was there," Crosby said, speaking
in a normal voice without anger or disgust. "NHL teams, they've
got to find a way to be prepared for an opponent. They've got a
good team and a good system over there, but that doesn't make it
Crosby was the only Penguins player who showed much jump in the
first two periods, but went scoreless for the fourth time in five
games despite having 29 points in 28 games.
"There's no excuse at all," Crosby said. "It's effort. It's
moving your feet, it's making hits. You keep it simple, but when
you do you create bounces -- you make your own bounces."
Previously, Crosby said, the Penguins were getting good scoring
chances but not converting them. This game, this lack of effort and
execution and emotion, was different.
"You can't give up," Crosby said. "You've got to keep
battling to the end. Winning is a habit. You can't accept losing.
Losing is a bad habit to accept."
Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk, booed loudly at home for the first
time this season, seemed discouraged by the latest bad defeat by a
team that was supposed to be much improved but is tied for last
place in the Eastern Conference.
Not only were the Penguins outshot 17-5 in the first period,
they didn't draw a single penalty in losing their 21st in 28 games,
counting six overtime or shootout losses. They had only 11 shots
through two periods, a remarkably low total for a team that
includes proven scorers such as John LeClair and Recchi, plus
"The execution wasn't there," Olczyk said. "This is the last
thing we saw coming. ... This is the toughest game of the season."
The Penguins seemingly should have gotten an emotional lift from
the news that owner-captain Lemieux's heart scare apparently wasn't
life-threatening. Lemieux was hospitalized Wednesday with a racing
heartbeat, but was released Thursday after being diagnosed with
atrial fibrillation, a condition commonly treated with medication.
Asked if the Penguins missed Lemieux's leadership, Olczyk said,
"Leadership had nothing to do with the way we played. If you want
to blame leadership, then you can blame me."
With goalie Marc-Andre Fleury held out with an intestinal
problem, Jocelyn Thibault (1-8-2) made his first start in net since
the Penguins tried to send him to the minors, then cleared him
through waivers last week. He didn't play badly in the first period
despite the Wild's big advantage in shots, but had no chance on
Gaborik's goal following Endicott's giveaway.
"I was trying to forecheck and I jumped in and took the puck
and deked the guy and it went in," Gaborik said. "It worked out
pretty good right from the beginning."
Wild goalie Manny Fernandez made 22 saves to improve to 8-3-3
with his first shutout since March 18, 2004, at Boston.
"We kept on a lot of pressure on them and restricted their
chances," Fernandez said. "Sometimes they were so happy to get a
shot in front of the net that they would rush their shots. I think
we did everything we wanted to."
Penguins F Ziggy Palffy returned after missing a game with
a sore groin, but aggravated the injury during the second period
and didn't return. Olczyk said afterward he made a mistake by
playing him. .. Daigle had one goal all season before Thursday. ...
The Wild are 5-1-1 against Pittsburgh in their brief history. ...
Olczyk missed the morning skate with what the team said was the
stomach flu. ... Pittsburgh might have had an excuse for not taking
any penalties: The Penguins were 2-of-32 on the power play while
losing their previous five.