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Penguins' Crosby trusts that 'puck will go in'

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin do not have a goal through four games of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Penguins do not expect that scoring drought to last much longer with the 2-2 series heading into Game 5 at Consol Energy Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

The Penguins' inability to hold on to multiple-goal leads in its two losses in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has turned attention toward the underwhelming play of their two primary stars.

Crosby, who finished the season as the NHL scoring champion with 104 points, has failed to score a goal in nine postseason games. He has five assists in those games, but was held without a point while being swept by the Boston Bruins during last year's Eastern Conference Final.

"I think [during] playoff time, you want to score no matter what," Crosby said. "You want to score every game, but it's a lot easier said than done. I think you just trust the puck will go in. I think the main thing is that you're getting chances. I think when you're getting a lot of chances and sometimes they're not going in, eventually they will and they'll come in bunches.

"But personally, I feel like I'd like to get a few more chances to feel comfortable."

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Crosby is "like everyone else, healthy and ready to go" when asked about Crosby's physical condition Thursday. Bylsma has criticized Pittsburgh's effort throughout the series, and Crosby agrees with his coach.

"That's something we know has to be improved. So I don't think that's any surprise to us," Crosby said. "I think it's something we have to be much better in."

Malkin, who returned in Game 1 from a foot injury that sidelined him for Pittsburgh's final 11 regular-season games, did not register a shot in Pittsburgh's 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4. He gave credit to the Blue Jackets, particularly forward Ryan Johansen, while also realizing it is his responsibility to get more pucks on net.

"There were a couple shots blocked. It's hard because Columbus is a tough team," Malkin said. "It's the playoffs, every team is a good team. We talk about us, but Columbus had their best game. When you play 1-on-1, sometimes you shoot, but [sometimes] you pass the puck. I'm trying, but I know the puck's coming.

"The last game, we started good and I don't think about playing against Johansen, [Brandon] Dubinsky or [Jack] Johnson. It's the whole team that plays tough. But if we play 60 minutes, we win."

Pittsburgh has received production beyond Crosby and Malkin, secondary scoring that was noticeably lacking through much of the regular season. Defenseman Paul Martin leads the League in postseason scoring with eight points in four games, and defenseman Matt Niskanen has two goals and five points, four on the power play.

Forward Jussi Jokinen, who plays left wing alongside Malkin, said Pittsburgh will need to become more efficient. Getting goals from Crosby and Malkin would certainly help.

"I think every guy in this League would probably be pretty happy if they had a point per game in the playoffs and that's what those guys have done," Jokinen said. "They have created a lot of chances for other guys and we knew scoring would be a challenge for our team. We've had some guys step up and find a way to score some goals, but when you're in the playoffs and you have two goals or less, you try to find a way to score two, three, four goals.

"I think that's what we're going to try to do tomorrow night."

Forward James Neal, Malkin's right wing, wouldn't blame Crosby and Malkin for Pittsburgh's two playoff losses, but he said he does believe they have handled the criticism well.

"They're our leaders and guys that run our team," Neal said. "When things don't go right here, [people] point the blame at them even if it's not the right way to go. It's going to happen; they understand that. They've been through it before and they've been in this position before and they've won before. So it's good when we have leaders like that.

"They know what it takes to get to the next level and I think you'll see that going on in this series."

A Penguins win in Game 5 would send Pittsburgh back to Columbus with a 3-2 series lead for Game 6 on Monday at Nationwide Arena. Crosby would like nothing more than to help his team to the brink of advancing.

"It's [the] playoffs," Crosby said. "I don't think it's that uncommon to go four games without a goal in the playoffs. I think that it's not something that you accept or you want to happen, but I don't think it's earth-shattering. I think it's happened to a lot of players before.

"Ultimately, you want to be there when your team needs you the most. [Come] playoff time, you want to be at your best."

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