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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final

Pens' Asham dares to dream of the improbable

By Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- While the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins aren't talking of anything but their next game -- one they weren't assured of playing until they somehow found a way to win -- forward Arron Asham is daring to believe that the near impossible is indeed possible.

Maybe because he's already been part of an Impossible Dream scenario himself with the very team the Penguins are opposing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Two years ago, the Flyers trailed the Boston Bruins 3-0 in the series and 3-0 in Game 7, only to rally and win their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. It marked only the third time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history a team won four in a row after dropping the first three. Asham was part of that team.

PENGUINS VS. FLYERS

Pens stay alive with 10-3 win in Game 4

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer
Jordan Staal recorded a hat trick late in a wild second period, Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists and Evgeni Malkin tallied his first two goals of the series as the Penguins avoided elimination with a 10-3 rout of the Flyers in Game 4. READ MORE ›

Call it superstition, or maybe it's simply the realization of what they still need to do to climb back into the series, but the rest of the Penguins players said Thursday that even a 10-3 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday hasn't made them rethink the precarious position they're in as they trail the Flyers 3-1.

"It's still one game, you don't get any extra points for beating them by seven goals," defenseman Brooks Orpik said following an optional practice at Consol Energy Center. "We've obviously dug ourselves a big hole and we've got to chip at it little by little."

But perhaps because those 2010 playoffs don't seem all that long ago, Asham allowed himself the luxury of thinking beyond Game 5 Friday night at Consol. If the Penguins win that game, Asham knows very well the Flyers will grip their sticks a bit tighter in Game 6. That once-huge series lead won't seem nearly as insurmountable. And the Penguins will have that sliver of hope that they lacked after giving up eight goals apiece in losing Games 2 and 3.

So, if there was any theme in the Penguins' locker room, it was this: Keep the series going, even if it takes a shift-by-shift rather than a period-by-period or game-by-game mentality. Or much like the Toronto Maple Leafs did against the Detroit Red Wings in 1942 and the New York Islanders did against the Penguins in 1975 by winning four in a row.

"It's obviously a big hill to climb. But anything can happen," said Asham, who missed Game 4 as he began a four-game suspension. "We have the horses. We have the guys. We have the character in this room to do it. Guys are excited to still be playing. We got a huge win in Philly and we're coming home."

And to keep their season going, the Penguins understand their only hope is to find a way to get back to Philadelphia. To do so will require playing much better at home than they did in losing 4-3 in overtime in Game 1, when they led 3-0, and 8-5 in Game 2.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma still isn't ready to concede that the 1980s-like outburst of scoring is ready to cease; the teams combined for 45 goals in the first four games. But he did like that there was a semblance of normalcy in Game 4, if that was possible during a 10-3 game.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who looked unsettled and uncomfortable in the first three games, didn't allow a goal the rest of the way after giving up three in the first period. The Penguins also played something that resembled a sound defensive game over the final two periods after permitting 23 goals in the series' first 10 periods and a brief Game 1 overtime.

"I know a lot was made about the way he's played, and he probably hasn't played his best," Orpik said. "But we were really bad in front of him for three games. I think not allowing the quality of chances that we did in the first three games was big. Hopefully he can build on that confidence just making some routine saves rather than having to make 10 spectacular saves every game."

The Penguins also got a huge lift when Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin contributed his first two goals of the series and an assist.

"It's obviously a big hill to climb, but anything can happen. We have the horses. We have the guys. We have the character in this room to do it. Guys are excited to still be playing. We got a huge win in Philly and we're coming home."
-- Penguins' forward Arron Asham

To Bylsma, if the special teams return to converting at a regular season-like rate, the series may finally settle down. But that hasn't happened yet; the Flyers are 9-for-15 on the power play, a remarkable 60 percent conversion rate, while the Penguins are 7-for-21 (33 percent).

"Special teams have really kind of blown it up in this series," Bylsma said. "The number of special-teams goals has been probably off the charts. That's kind of blown up some of the games and made them high-scoring. I do anticipate being in games where it's tighter and more of a playoff-type of hockey. It hasn't gotten there yet."

With so much scoring going on -- and defenseman Paul Martin injured -- Bylsma dressed seven defensemen for Game 4, something he almost never does. Given how the Penguins played in the final two periods, he may do so again in Game 5, meaning rookies Simon Despres and Brian Strait might be in uniform again even as Craig Adams and James Neal return from one-game suspensions.

"We're still in the same position we were in," Adams said. "We won a game, which we needed to do, but our mindset can't change. We're still in the same position we were in."

Neal can only imagine how the Penguins' fans will respond after not having much to cheer for three games -- as well as how they would respond if the Penguins can win a game on home ice.

"We didn't do a good job the first two games in front of them," Neal said. "We owe them a good one. It will be a rocking atmosphere, I'm sure, and it will be a fun atmosphere."

I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.

— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the series-winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round