BOSTON -- Evgeni Malkin sat in his dressing room stall, dutifully answering the questions he was being asked -- even though he had no answers.
Malkin was just one of the array of offensive stars on the Pittsburgh Penguins who did not register a single point in a four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference Final at the hands of the Boston Bruins, one completed Friday night with a 1-0 loss at TD Garden.
"We scored two goals in four games. It's not enough," Malkin said, his voice barely more audible than a whisper, in a dressing room wrought with sorrow. "It's my mistake. I scored zero goals."
The longest either Crosby or Malkin went without a point in the regular season was two games. Had one of them been able to maintain that streak and find a way to produce a goal in Game 3, a double-overtime 2-1 loss that essentially sealed the Penguins' fate, this could have been a different series.
But they didn't.
"[The Bruins] are solid, they make you earn your chances," Crosby said. "That being said, I don't feel like they totally shut us down. I feel like we got chances, just [Boston goaltender Tuukka] Rask made some saves. But they're consistent; they don't give you chances. You've got to earn them.
"We earned them and unfortunately didn't capitalize on them."
The number of chances the Penguins were able to produce in Game 1 and Game 3 of the series were astronomical -- Rask said it was north of 20 for each game. The fact a team that had scored 47 times in 11 playoff games entering the series only converted once on those 40-plus chances is what makes this so much more difficult to comprehend.
"I share your disbelief," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said, "that it's a possible storyline in this series."Throughout the series, Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Neal and the rest of the Penguins continued to insist that if they continued producing chances at the rate and quality they were producing them, they would eventually go in. When that ultimately proved to be not the case, Neal was asked if there was anything the Penguins should have done differently.
"Obviously, if we wanted to do something different we'd put it in the back of the net," Neal said, somewhat annoyed at the question. "The chances are right there to put it in the back of the net, so I don't think we should have done anything different. It's when you run into a hot goalie in the playoffs, he can win you games."
Then there was Jarome Iginla, who chose to be traded from the Calgary Flames to the Penguins for a chance at a Stanley Cup, turning down a similar opportunity to join the Bruins. Not only did Iginla not produce, he didn't even really generate any chances or have any significant impact on the series.
Iginla admitted afterward he had "a very tough series," but appreciated the chance to join the Penguins for the run they had.
"The Bruins, they played very well, they're a very good team," Iginla said. "I was fortunate to have that choice, and when you make it you definitely believe in the guys here, and we played some great hockey right up until this last series. It also stings not playing well in this last series. These four games, I just didn't play well, and that's when you want to play your best for the team."
Iginla is far from being the only Penguins player to feel that way.