Winter Classic offers Penguins chance to end 4-game skid

PITTSBURGH– The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a chance to end a four-game skid against the Boston Bruins in the 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston on Monday (2 p.m. ET; TNT, SN, TVAS).

“It’s a unique experience for our guys,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said after a Lost 4-2 to the New Jersey Devils at PPG Paints Arena on Friday. “I think we have to see this for what it is and embrace this moment and enjoy this moment. We also have to understand that there are deals at hand and there are two points at stake.

“When that puck drops, we have to be ready to play. So I think it’s an incredible opportunity. It’s a great privilege for all of us to be a part of something like this. I think we should kiss and I think we should enjoy this moment.”

[RELATED: 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic coverage]

The Penguins are 0-2-2 in the skid and 1-3-2 in their last six games. Heading into Friday, they were down 5-1 to the New York Islanders on Tuesday and 5-4 in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings a day later when they blew a 4-0 lead.

Pittsburgh (19-11-6) is fourth in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the third-place Washington Capitals. He played one game less but has the same number of points (44) as the Islanders and New York Rangers.

The Capitals are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. The Islanders are 5-3-2 but have won three in a row, and the Rangers are 7-2-1.

That leaves the Penguins without the luxury of simply enjoying their surroundings on Monday, before Bryan Rust said.

“We have to get back into the win column,” Rust said. “It’s a bit of a special game just because of the circumstances and being in the Winter Classic and all that, but I think we have to try to come out and worry about winning this game.”

On Wednesday, Sullivan said even-strength play had begun to decline after a 14-2-2 streak from Nov. 9 to Dec. 15. It was the power play that received the most criticism Friday, when it went 0-for-9 against the Devils.

Pittsburgh isn’t playing as a collective five-man unit, Sullivan said after the loss to Detroit on Wednesday. Cheeky Rickard Rakell believes this is where the Winter Classic could help.

“I think maybe that’s a good thing for us,” Rakell said. “Just a new excitement to play on a big stage like this. Everyone has their family and friends there. Lots of hockey fun to look forward to. On the contrary, we should be really excited about it and see this as a chance to turn things around.”

Tristan Jarry, the likely starting goaltender for the Penguins on Monday, allowed eight goals on 69 shots in consecutive regulation-time losses. Prior to those two starts, he hadn’t lost in regulation time since November 5. Jarry was 11-0-3 in his 14 previous starts, allowing more than three goals on three occasions.

Monday is the opportunity to bounce back.

“It’s two points,” Jarry said. “It’s another game where we could move in the right direction. It’s another step we could take. It’s just a game we have to focus on to try and get two points.”

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