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Malkin fighting through a slump

Monday, 05.04.2009 / 11:40 PM / Conference Semifinals: Washington vs. Pittsburgh

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

WASHINGTON -- The Pittsburgh Penguins' two All-Star centers were both disappointed following their team's 4-3 loss in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Washington Capitals.

While Sidney Crosby at least knows he did everything he could for his team to win -- the captain scored all three Pittsburgh goals and was a force every time he stepped on the ice -- Evgeni Malkin was in the worst place possible at the worst time.

As a penalty on Washington's Milan Jurcina ended, Malkin was whistled for tripping the Caps' David Steckel in the offensive zone.

It's the worst kind of penalty -- a completely unnecessary one -- and four seconds later, Alexander Ovechkin ripped the go-ahead goal past Marc-Andre Fleury.

It was another chapter in what has been an up-and-down postseason for the Art Ross Trophy winner. He's fourth in the League in playoff scoring and has a three-game point streak, but he's gone five games without a goal. He seemed tentative with the puck and didn't look at all like the player who paced all scorers with 78 assists and 113 points to earn his second consecutive slot as a Hart Trophy finalist.

In Game 2 he recorded six shots and two hits in 19:49 of ice time, but was a minus-2, took the crucial penalty and won just one of five faceoffs. That follows a poor Game 1 effort, when he played 20:49 and had just two shots while going minus-1.

It's the second straight postseason Malkin has started strong but hit a cold spell. Last year, he had 8 goals and 17 points in his first 10 postseason games, and just 2 goals and 5 points in his last 10.

This year, he had 4 goals and 7 points in his first three playoff games, but has just 4 assists in his last five games.

Malkin said he wasn't feeling any pressure to perform better.

"No, I'll play my game," he said. "There's not pressure. I feel good. But I need to be better a little bit."

When asked if he needed to talk to Malkin specifically, coach Dan Bylsma said he would talk to multiple players about where improvements are needed.

"I'm going to talk to a lot of players," Bylsma said. "Talk about the things we did well, didn't do well, in situations that we're going to see again form the Caps and what to expect, and we're going to address those, and Geno (Malkin) is no different."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.

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