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Penguins Locker Room: Frustration Oozes From Every Corner

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Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang
Kris Letang

Frustration, spoken, unspoken and widely eluded to, permeated the Pittsburgh Penguins’ public thoughts Saturday after their 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at PPG Paints Arena.

Winger Rickard Rakell actually used the word. Others were less direct.

None were as indirect as center and team captain Sidney Crosby, who was out of the Penguins locker room by the time reporters were allowed in and did not speak publicly.

It should be noted that Crosby is the epitome of cooperation with reporters, and his no-show was by far an outlier. In fact, very few of the players were available for interviews.

It should also be noted that Crosby missed a couple stretches of the first period, when he retreated to the locker room. It would seem that he had an equipment issue, specifically a skate problem, and therefore was not receiving medical attention after the game. He was available the rest of the game after the first period.

Coach Mike Sullivan, linemate Jake Guentzel and defenseman Kris Letang, asked about Crosby’s issue, did not have an answer. Nor did they address his frustration level. Of course, they were each dealing with their own level of frustration.

There were indications earlier that Crosby might be having a skate issue. He went to the bench and had a skate worked on by equipment staff early during the pregame warmup.

Then there was Crosby’s reaction to Toronto getting a goal in the  first minute of the game, after a poorly executed Penguins line change that included Crosby’s line leaving the ice. As Crosby sat down on the bench, TV cameras caught him angrily and repeatedly kicking the boards in front of him with his right foot.

It was after that when he retreated to the locker room.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Sullivan said when asked about Crosby’s frustration level and potential skate issue.

“Obviously, you don’t want to give up a goal in the first 40 seconds of the game. I’m sure that probably had a little something to do with it. But I don’t know the answer.”

Letang, who got victimized by what he clearly thought was a tripping penalty when Mitch Marner took the puck away from him near the right-wing corner and then set up Pontus Holmberg for the Maple Leafs’ second goal, also declined to address his captain’s frustration level.

“I don’t know about those things,” Letang said. “I have enough to focus on on my game.”

As for the play with Marner, who took Letang off the puck, Letang’s explanation:

“I saw him coming. I was bracing for a hit,” Letang said. “His foot just clipped the back of my heel and I kind of lost my balance.

“I think they got a penalty right after on the same (type of) play.”

Asked whether he was surprised there was no penalty called on Marner, Letang shrugged and said, “I mean, my reaction kind of (told) it all.”

You know, frustration.

Going back to Crosby, Guentzel also tossed around the notion that the captain’s foul mood could be traced to that bad line change and early Toronto goal, although that was just one of many mistakes for the Penguins.

“You never want to get scored on that early,” he said. “That’s a tough start for us, especially our line that’s out there at the start of the game. We can’t have that happen.”

Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson