Their best players have not been good enough in the Eastern Conference Final -- and it may be the biggest reason they are down 2-0 in this best-of-7 series after the Boston Bruins pasted them 6-1 on Monday night in Game 2 at Consol Energy Center.
Sidney Crosby, the captain and the player many believe to be the best in the world, has played 47:22 in this series, but has no points and just six shots. He is minus-3, committed four giveaways (all in Game 2) and has won just 14 of 35 faceoffs.
Evgeni Malkin, the Conn Smythe winner when Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009, has played 37:36 and has 10 shots without generating a point. He is minus-3.
Jarome Iginla, the man they traded for near the NHL Trade Deadline to provide secondary scoring, has played 30:36 without a point and has managed just three shots. He is minus-6.
Kris Letang, a finalist for the Norris Trophy and the highest-scoring defenseman in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, has seen almost 50 minutes of ice time through two games, but has managed more giveaways (three) than shots (two). He is a minus-5.
Each member of that quartet was especially bad in Game 2, but they had lost of company in that regard as the Penguins turned in their worst outing of the entire season.
Yet, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma was not going to sell his stars down the Ohio River.
'"I'm not going to look at just three players what they need to do and how they need to play," Bylsma said. "As a group, we need to be a lot better. We need to get to our foundation of how we play and play as a group, and we didn't do that. That includes every one of them, all of us, not just [Crosby], [Malkin] and [Letang].
"It's easy to look at one mistake or one play at the start of the game or to say that, but that's not an indication of the rest of the guys. We need to play a lot better than that. We need to get back to our game, back to our best, and that's not just one or two guys."
While Bylsma was trying to shield his stars from criticism after a two-game disaster here at Consol Energy Center, the besieged players were having no part of it.
"We don't sit here and accept that," said Crosby, who blamed his first-shift turnover for much of the team's troubles.
Brad Marchand scored at the 28-second mark when Crosby didn't make a hard enough play on a bouncing puck at the blue line.
"We are looked upon to score and produce and I'm not going to sit here and make any excuses,” Crosby added. “We have to be better. That's the bottom line. We have to find a way to create chances or put the puck in the net ourselves. I'm not going to sit here and say it is [Boston goalie Tuukka] Rask or anything they are doing. We just have to be better. That is the way it is."
Letang says his team has not earned the right to win a game yet in the series, dismissing any of the excuses that were floated his way.
"If you look at our lineup, I think we have everything we need [to win]," Letang said. [I'm] pretty confident with the group of guys we have. It's just a question of playing the right way. We didn't; so we don't deserve to win."
"I'm not going to look at just three players what they need to do and how they need to play. As a group, we need to be a lot better. We need to get to our foundation of how we play and play as a group, and we didn't do that. That includes every one of them, all of us, not just [Crosby], [Malkin] and [Letang]."
-- Dan Bylsma
As long as the odds might be, the Penguins know they still have life in this series. But, if they hope to get off the mat and make this the knock-down, drag-out series they -- and some many others -- expected, they know that their stars will have to shine.
It is a pressure the stars are willing to shoulder.
"It comes from us as players; we know what we need to do and the group has had a lot of success this year," said Iginla. "We've played bad games this year and, unfortunately, we played a really bad one [Monday], so it's a hole. But this is a group that we believe we can find our way out of it and work our way out of it and get out of it. But it's going to start with effort."
While there was no bold guarantee of a Game 3 victory by the Penguins' captain, Crosby did say his team has the tools and the mindset to fight its way back into this series during the next two games in Boston. Much of the confidence, he says, comes from the success the team has had all year.
"When you play a certain way all year and you believe in the way you play, I think that gives you a lot of confidence," Crosby said. "Coming off a game like this, there will be no shortage of motivation. Guys have a lot of pride and a lot of character. I'm not worried about how we will respond."