The visiting Pittsburgh Penguins and Arizona Coyotes enter their game Sunday in Tempe, Ariz., searching for wins and preaching confidence.
The Penguins are 0-4-2 in their past six games dating to before the holiday break and will be looking to avoid their second seven-game losing streak of the season.
They are coming off a 5-2 loss Thursday at Vegas, and while the Penguins are playing without top defensemen Kris Letang (injury and on leave after the death of his father) and Jeff Petry (injury), they were thoroughly dissatisfied with their first period, when the Golden Knights took a 3-0 lead.
“It’s concerning that we had the first period that we had. We’re a better hockey team than that,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We showed it in the second and third, but we didn’t give ourselves a chance because we didn’t play well in the first.”
That loss came a day after Sullivan stopped practice to admonish his players for being sluggish.
The Penguins have scored only 13 goals during their six-game skid, including five over the past three games.
Pittsburgh leading scorer Sidney Crosby, newly named to the All-Star game for the ninth time, scored late in the game at Vegas and added an assist to break out of a four-game slide without a point.
The Penguins veteran noted that the team responded to its poor first with two solid periods even if they were too little, too late, and, putting on his captain’s voice, issued a pretty clear challenge to his teammates — along with a vote of confidence.
“We’ve got to figure it out quickly,” Crosby said. “I mean, no one likes losing, but how we handle it is going to define our group. We can hang our heads or get frustrated, or we can do something about it.
“I like to think that we’re going to do something about it. It’s not easy. It’s a challenge. … If we handle it the right way, it can be something that probably goes a long way in helping us when we look back.”
Arizona is looking back to its performance Friday in a 2-0 loss at Chicago that wrapped up an 0-4-0 road trip for the Coyotes, who are in 14th place in the Western Conference.
The shutout loss against the Blackhawks came a night after a 6-2 defeat at Philadelphia, but it left the Coyotes with a different feeling.
“Sometimes things don’t go your way — you have nights like that — (but) I think it was a good response,” said goaltender Connor Ingram, who stopped 30 of 31 shots he faced in the loss to Chicago.
Arizona coach Andre Tourigny talked about the loss to the Blackhawks almost as if it were a win, or at least a game that could launch a strong stretch of games.
“We had a great effort. That will lead to a better performance, and the result will take care of itself,” Tourigny said. “That’s the culture we want to have. We want to be a competitive team. We want to work hard. And we want to be on the puck.”
He said because his players satisfied those expectations against Chicago, the loss offered a good outlook.
“I can live with that when you work like we worked,” he said. “It was not a matter of effort.”
The Coyotes have won three straight games at their new but temporary home, Mullett Arena.
–Field Level Media