BOSTON — One by one, each player with a letter on his jersey parked himself at his locker stall and took his turn trying to explain one of the team’s worst performances of the season.
First Sidney Crosby. Then Kris Letang. Finally Evgeni Malkin.
All made valid points. None had any really solid answers.
After tearing through the league for much of the last three months, the Penguins have hit a particularly ugly roadblock.
David Krejci had a hat trick, and David Pastrnak scored twice as the Boston Bruins scorched the Penguins, 8-4, Thursday night.
On the heels of a 17-4-1 run to start the new year, the Penguins have lost three in a row, giving up 17 goals in the process.
It was the fourth time this season the Penguins gave up seven or more goals in a loss.
“It’s one of those games where we didn’t really do well in any area and didn’t deserve to win,” Crosby said. “There’s not much to say about it.”
Letang and Malkin painted a picture of a team that has fallen in love with its own offense.
“We have four great lines in the offensive zone, but we need to start to play better in the D zone for sure,” Malkin said. “We can’t play like if they score five or six, we think we score seven. It’s not working like that.”
Letang offered a reminder of how those gaudy offensive numbers the team put up in January and February were made possible.
“Yes, we have all the power on the world to score goals, but at the end of the day, we’re going to have to play well defensively,” Letang said. “When we score a lot of goals, it was when we played good defensively. We created a lot of turnovers, and we suffocated teams in their zone. We have to get back to that.”
There was no shortage of ugly stat lines to go around. Starting goalie Casey DeSmith stopped two of the five shots he faced. Carter Rowney was on the ice for five goals against, including all three the Bruins scored on the power play. Jamie Oleksiak was a minus-3.
Coach Mike Sullivan had little interest, however, in pointing to corners of his roster that may have been more culpable than others.
“This is a team effort,” Sullivan said. “It was a team thing. We all have to be better. I’ve got to do a better job as their coach to make sure the details and focus that’s necessary to play the game the right way is there.”
A confluence of events left the Penguins in big trouble from the drop of the puck.
The resurgent Bruins, owners of an 18-5-1 record since Jan. 1, came out flying, relentlessly attacking the net.
The Penguins, meanwhile, used a toxic combination of questionable puck management and disjointed defensive-zone play to spend a lot of their time scrambling around their own net.
With Matt Murray out with a concussion, the inexperienced duo of DeSmith and Tristan Jarry couldn’t stand up to the onslaught.
The Bruins manufactured goals in a variety of ways, scoring five in the first period.
They scored off the rush, like when Rick Nash feathered a backhand pass to Krejci at the post for Boston’s first goal. They got bounces, like when a Pastrnak shot flipped up over DeSmith and tumbled a few inches across the goal line. They scored on special teams, like when Krejci netted two power-play goals in the second period to complete his hat trick.
Olli Maatta scored twice, and the Penguins got to within 5-3 by the end of the first, but they were never really in danger of mounting a comeback.
“In every area we got beat,” Crosby said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.