-- Sidney Crosby
smiled and shook his head in agreement.
Yes, Canada's newest hockey hero indeed has, over the past two weeks, experienced a physical and a mental lull, and more than anything that has contributed to his current five-game goal drought and perhaps the Penguins' overall inconsistency.
"Oh yeah, it's tough and it's natural," Crosby said Wednesday morning from Verizon Center, where the Penguins, who are 2-2-1 over their last five games, were preparing to play Washington in a game that will be aired live on the NHL Network (7 p.m. ET).
After scoring the gold medal-winning overtime goal for Canada in Vancouver, Crosby stormed back into the NHL with points in the first seven games (3-6-9) and the Penguins were 5-1-1.
However, right around the middle of the Penguins' recent five-game road trip, Crosby hit the proverbial wall. He has 2 assists and a minus-4 rating since the Penguins played in Tampa Bay on March 14.
"I feel like last game was a good game for us, and me personally, as far as the pace. I thought the pace was there and it forces you to really start playing that playoff game. We're going to play Washington here tonight and it's going to be the exact same thing. This is when you have to start to get geared up both individually and as a team. It's not going to get any easier, but these are the games you want." -- Sidney Crosby
"You can prepare yourself for it as much as you want, but when you first come back and you're kind of all on adrenaline," he said. "You have played that pace of hockey (in the Olympics) and the first four or five games seem pretty slow. It's like playing Stanley Cup Final pace and then going back to regular-season pace, and it's great. The games slow down a bit, but you can't match that intensity no matter how hard the game is during the regular season.
"After that first week or two that's when you start to feel it a little more and when you have to bear down and really keep things simple. That's the biggest thing. You can't let it affect you, but at the same time you know there are going to be times where it's a little tougher and you have to stay focused on doing the little things."
Crosby said Monday's game against Detroit, when at the end of a 3-1 loss he got into it physically with Henrik Zetterberg
and goalie Jimmy Howard
, was good for him. He said now he feels he's getting over the hump; that his physical and mental energy are about back.
"I feel like last game was a good game for us, and me personally, as far as the pace," Crosby said. "I thought the pace was there and it forces you to really start playing that playoff game. We're going to play Washington here tonight and it's going to be the exact same thing. This is when you have to start to get geared up both individually and as a team. It's not going to get any easier, but these are the games you want."
For Crosby to really feel that he's over the lulls, he has to score. It would be ideal for him to breakout of his mini-slump tonight against the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin
Crosby and Ovechkin are tied for the League lead with 45 goals, but No. 87 hasn't scored in any of the 10 games the Penguins have been without Evgeni Malkin
. The Russian center will be out again tonight with a bruised right foot.
"I've just got to put the puck in the net," Crosby said. "Lately I have gotten a few chances and it hasn't gone in. This time of the year is when you want to be heating up a bit, so for sure I want to start making good on the chances I get. There have been a couple of games where I didn't play well and probably didn't deserve to have scoring chances, but in the last couple they have been there and hopefully it's just a matter of time."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl