Penguins bid for fast start against Avalanche

PITTSBURGH -- A lot of teams talk about getting good starts, but it will really hit home Monday night when the Penguins host the Colorado Avalanche at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins (16-12-3) were livid about their opening period Saturday, when they gave up two goals in the initial two minutes and three overall in the first of a 4-3 loss to Toronto.

"I just think it's a (lack of) readiness on our part. It's a lack of awareness," coach Mike Sullivan said. "It starts for me with a mindset and readiness and awareness to play the game hard and play the game with a certain level of commitment right from the drop of the puck, and for whatever reason we didn't have it."

Several states south, the Avalanche (13-13-2) were satisfied with their start in a 7-3 win at Florida.

"We had a really good start," Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov said. "It gives you lots of confidence when the guys are scoring so many goals."

The Penguins have won five of their past seven games, but poor starts have been a problem at times all season, and it is sticking in their craw.

"We've got to come out with the mentality to dictate the pace," team captain Sidney Crosby said. "We can't come out seeing what kind of game it's going to be. Before we know it, we're down 2- or 3-nothing. That's basically what it comes down to.

"We've got to be able to play the exact same way every night, home or on the road. We've got to establish our game."

The contest against Colorado marks the final game of Pittsburgh's longest homestand, a five-game set. It is 2-2-0 through the first four, both losses being one-goal affairs.

The Penguins, who were off Sunday, could get No. 1 goaltender Matt Murray back from a lower-body injury that has sidelined him the past five games. He participated with no limitations in Saturday's morning skate and indicated he was close to returning.

Colorado, meanwhile, has followed up a 1-4-0 homestand by splitting the first two contests of a four-game road trip. The Avalanche dropped a 5-2 decision versus Tampa Bay before the win at Florida.

Now come back-to-back games at Pittsburgh and Washington.

"They're two good teams. Both playing real well right now," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "But we like the way we're trending. We didn't like our homestand. There was a lot of good things out of the Tampa game. I know we lost 5-2, but you've got to take the positives out of that."

And then there was that start and all those goals at Florida, with 14 players earning at least one point.

"I really liked our start. Loved our first period," Bednar said.

It's the kind of thing that could be Pittsburgh's worst nightmare.

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