PITTSBURGH — Mike Sullivan’s voice is unmistakable. Loud. Authoritative. Animated.

And, the Pittsburgh Penguins hope, an alarm clock.

One of the NHL’s marquee draws is in the midst of an identity crisis more than a third of the way into a season that began with typically high expectations, goals that at the moment appear impossibly out of reach. The Penguins aren’t scoring. They occasionally aren’t defending and – perhaps most troubling – the magic they once summoned so easily seems to have disappeared.

Pittsburgh’s 4-1 loss to Washington on Monday night in Sullivan’s debut dropped the Penguins to 15-11-3. They remain in a tie for ninth in the Eastern Conference and are 27th in goals per game despite ranking fifth in shots. The power play littered with All-Stars is 28th, ahead of only Calgary and Arizona. Not exactly the neighborhood Pittsburgh planned to be living in as the New Year approaches.

Enter Sullivan, who spent a decade grinding out a career as a defensive-minded forward before getting into coaching. He now finds himself trying to get Pittsburgh’s highly capable, occasionally highly strung players working in unison.

Nowhere are Pittsburgh’s struggles more evident than in Sidney Crosby’s prolonged funk. The two-time Hart Trophy winner is on pace for career lows in goals and points, and his team appears destined for a four-month battle just to reach the postseason let alone make a serious run at Stanley Cup to bookend the one he and fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin won in 2009 back when a dynasty seemed almost inevitable.

“We’ll focus on the process,” Sullivan said. “We’ll pull ourselves out of this.”