(Photo credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
The Carolina Hurricanes and visiting Pittsburgh Penguins are scolding themselves going into their meeting Saturday.
Each team is coming off a loss that forced some introspection.
Carolina lost at home for the first time Wednesday, 3-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Afterward, center and captain Jordan Staal aired a list of grievances aimed at his team, and not just for that game, but for inconsistency all season.
"As a group, it just doesn't look like we've completely bought in to how we want to do things, and it's going to look like that," said Staal, who early in his career won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh.
"It's going to be a .500 club that wins some games and loses some games and (is) kind of ho-hum. It's getting a little frustrating. We're going to need to have everyone (playing consistently better). I have to be better. Our line's got to be better. Contributions from everyone. It's got to start soon."
When Staal's thoughts were relayed to Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour, he backed his captain.
"It's not enough," Brind'Amour said of his team's play. "It's not consistent enough. It's hard enough to win anyway, and it kind of makes it harder on ourselves. Just getting off (our game) a little, trying to be too cute here and there."
Carolina has a three-game winning streak on its resume, but also a three-game losing streak. Wins and losses have been coming in fairly equal measure all season.
Pittsburgh also is striving for consistently better performances.
The Penguins know what that looks like. They found it when they reeled off a season-best, five-game winning streak. But that ended Thursday in a 5-2 loss at home against the New Jersey Devils.
Disturbing pre-winning streak trends returned. Pittsburgh twice took a one-goal lead, then gave up a tying goal. Turnovers were costly. A lack of urgency at times was noticeable.
Pittsburgh's power play, which has struggled to find cohesion at times, gave up a shorthanded goal.
"We weren't good in any area, to be honest with you," said Penguins center and captain Sidney Crosby, calling out his team as his counterpart in Carolina did.
"I thought they just played better. They outworked us."
Which, given Pittsburgh's preferred identity, is a damning statement.
"We've got to learn our lessons," said winger Bryan Rust, whose two goals Thursday gave the Penguins early leads. "We've got to bring it every night. (Thursday's loss) doesn't sit well with anybody."
Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry, who also has been inconsistent, gave up five goals on 31 shots against the Devils. He pointed out that the game took on a flavor that doesn't favor Pittsburgh.
"It was a bit of back and forth," Jarry said. "I think when we're playing our game, those things kind of close up, and I think we take a lot of that away.
"I think it's just (about) getting better next game."
Pittsburgh has a good chance to find top-quality redemption this weekend. In back-to-back games, the Penguins face Carolina, the defending Metropolitan Division champion, and then come home to host the Vegas Golden Knights, the defending Cup champions.
--Field Level Media