For six games – six looong games – the Pittsburgh Penguins fell into a few unwanted habits. Namely, losing. They broke that streak Tuesday in a 7-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Perhaps winning can become their new habit.
“It has to,” forward Jared McCann said Wednesday after practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. “Our division’s so tight, and teams keep winning. We have to have an effort like (Tuesday’s) every single night. We don’t have any excuses.”
During their losing streak, the Penguins fell from their short-lived perch in first place in the Metropolitan Division to third, behind Washington and Philadelphia – two teams that have a big showdown Wednesday night.
They want to keep the win Tuesday from being a one-off.
“We’ve just got to build on it,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “We can talk about it all we want. We’ve just got to go out there and put a couple (wins) together.”
They not only busted out of their six-game losing streak in a big way Tuesday, but it also stopped a stretch where the Penguins had a hard time beating also-rans.
Now they face another not-ready-for-playoff-prime-time game Thursday in Buffalo. The Sabres have lost four straight.
They also beat the Penguins 5-2 Feb. 22 at PPG Paints Arena, one of the games during the Penguins’ six-game skid.
The Penguins also lost to lowly Western Conference clubs Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose during the streak.
“We felt good about (Tuesday) night,” Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson said. “We got rewarded for a lot of things we did well. We needed that. We played desperate, and we need to play desperate (regularly). It’s a tight race and there’s not much left of the season, so we need to continue to play desperate.”
Pettersson agreed with McCann that winning needs to be the Penguins’ new habit.
“Yeah, that’s the way we played for the most part of the season,” he said. “It’s just the (previous) few games where it hasn’t gone our way and we got away from it. But with everything we’ve been through this year, we learned a lot about ourselves. So we know what way we’ve got to play.”