– Evgeni Malkin
sat alone in his locker stall late Saturday night, his elbows on knees, head in hands, and eyes gazing at the carpet below him.
If body language was verbal, Malkin's would be telling a sad story of an All-Star's game gone missing.
It's been four games now in the Stanley Cup Final and Malkin, the Hart Trophy candidate who scored 47 regular-season goals and nine in the first 14 games of the playoffs, has no points against the Detroit Red Wings
It's no coincidence that the Penguins, who lost Game 4 at Mellon Arena, 2-1, now face the monumental task of having to win three straight games against a team they have beaten just once in four tries so far in this championship series.
"In hockey, it happens when you're on a streak and you can't score or do anything basically," Malkin, still with his eyes focused on the carpet, his arms folded and shoulders sloped south, said through an interpreter. "You have to work hard and go through that time. Hopefully I'm going to score a goal."
Hope is about all Malkin seems to be clinging to these days, because his otherworldly ability to score goals is M.I.A. But his teammates not only believe in him, they trust that he will get a big one in Game 5 to help keep this series alive.
"Once one goes in, I think it heals everything," Sidney Crosby said. "We'll tell him to keep doing the same things. You don't forget (how to score). He's a great player, and all the things he's been doing, he's going to be rewarded for it. It's just a matter of time. I don't think we're too worried. He's going to find a way."
Added Maxime Talbot: "When he gets one he'll start back the way he was."
The problem now is Malkin is beginning to question himself, and it's evident that he's trying too hard to score instead of just letting the play come to him. He had five shots on goal Saturday night, but none really tested Detroit goalie Chris Osgood.
"I've been thinking about how I'm not scoring the goals and I have to score the goals," Malkin said. "After a while I just think I should let it go. The coaches talked to me and told me to just let it go and play with the team."
Malkin had a glorious chance to snap out of it during the Penguins' 5-on-3 late in the third period. He had the puck on his stick in the right circle and basically the entire left side of the net to aim for, but he sailed the puck high and wide.
The Penguins failed to score on the 5-on-3.
"The guys gave me a good opportunity to shoot that puck and I just missed the net," Malkin said. "I'm pretty frustrated and kind of disappointed that I haven't scored any goals. I probably just have to work harder and if I were to score one goal I can get away from this streak."
Malkin said his slump is not because he's tired or ailing, but he is only two years removed from playing just 66 games in Russia, including 20 in international play, and last year he complained of fatigue in the playoffs against Ottawa.
He didn't score a goal in five playoff games last season, but said this series is different than that one against the Senators.
He's experienced and until recently was playing with a surplus of confidence. He had 17 points in his first 10 playoff games, but now has only two in his last eight games and none against the Red Wings.
"I have all my energy and power," Malkin said. "No, I don't think I've hit a wall."
Then, what is it? Malkin sure would like to know.
"I don't really know why," Malkin said. "I mean, sometimes, yes I'm thinking that I'm not scoring the goals and why, what has happened? But I try not to really think about it a lot why I'm not scoring."
Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said it's not for lack of effort.
"Nothing is happening for him," Therrien said. "His intentions are there, but the results are not there. But he tried. He works."
If Malkin doesn't get results Monday, he may have all summer to think about it.
"Obviously (the media) puts a lot of pressure on him and I think he feels it, but I'm sure he's going to bounce back," Talbot said. "As a teammate you try to stay positive with him and help him out. You give him a tap on the back and say, 'OK, you're fine buddy, you're going to do it.' All these guys in the dressing room are behind him. He's going to wake up and make us win."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com