DENVER (AP)—The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the season aiming for a Stanley Cup title. Now they’re searching for answers.
“It is tough. We’ve got to hang in there and keep our heads up and make sure we’re working hard,” Pittsburgh coach Michael Therrien said. “Eventually, if we get the right approach we’ll get out of this.”
The Penguins haven’t won since beating New Jersey on Dec. 26, and Therrien was dismissive when asked if his team’s struggles might cost him his job.
“Why? I don’t worry about that,” he said.
Jordan Staal, who had a short-handed goal, said coaching isn’t the problem.
“Guys want to play for him, it’s just a matter of winning games,” he said.
The Penguins reached the Stanley Cup finals last year before losing to Detroit in six games. They started this season strong, going 15-6-4, but they are 5-13 over the past five weeks.
“The things that allow you to win don’t change based on the month,” said captain Sidney Crosby, who had a goal and an assist. “It’s the same things it took in October and November as now.”
Crosby said teams are gunning for them after last year’s success.
“You have to be prepared, especially after the season we had last year, for teams to get up for those games,” he said. “It’s no secret when we play teams it brings out the best in them.”
Count Colorado among the teams excited to play against Pittsburgh, especially Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“They’re two players that we don’t see a whole lot of,” Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. “To see them live, they are as good as their reputation. They are exciting, no question about it.”
Wolski broke a 2-all tie when he skated into the Pittsburgh zone, took a pass from Smyth and beat goalie Dany Sabourin over the left shoulder for his 11th goal of the season midway through the second period.
Four minutes later, Jordan Leopold scored on a slap shot from the blue line to give Colorado a 4-2 lead.
Staal made it interesting with his 13th goal with 12:23 left, but Jones gave the Avalanche some breathing room with his eighth goal 51 seconds later.
“The whole team has been pitching in,” said Wolski, who has a three-game goal streak. “David Jones had three points tonight, two goals, just going hard to the net and getting his stick on the ice.”
Sabourin had 21 saves on 25 shots before being pulled in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury to start the third. Fleury stopped six shots.
The Avalanche went in front when Smyth redirected Wolski’s shot from the high slot for his 14th goal of the season midway through the first period.
Malkin, who had a goal and an assist, tied it with a power-play goal at 15:41 of the first. Crosby sent a pass across the zone and Malkin one-timed it from the right circle past Raycroft for his 16th of the season.
Jones scored to get the lead back for Colorado just 2:06 into the second, but Malkin and Crosby teamed up again to tie it. This time, Crosby took a pass from Malkin and slid a shot between Raycroft’s legs with 11:16 left in the period, his 17th of the year.
It wasn’t enough for the Penguins to get out of their funk.
“It’s been a different thing each time. We’ve got to put it together,” Crosby said. “Sometimes our special teams has hurt us, sometimes even strength we haven’t been sharp.”
Leopold’s goal was his 100th career point. … Both teams were 1-for-1 on the power play. … Colorado is 9-1-0 in its past 10 games against the Penguins. … Pittsburgh’s last victory in Denver was a 3-2 win on Feb. 25, 1999.