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Penguins getting scoring from lesser lights

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- No Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin nor James Neal in the goal column?

No problem so far for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hope to continue spreading the scoring if necessary to put a stranglehold on their Eastern Conference First Round series in Game 4 at Nationwide Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 and have 11 goals from seven players. Defenseman Matt Niskanen and forwards Brian Gibbons, Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter each has two goals.

Crosby has extended his goal-scoring drought during the past two postseasons to eight games. Malkin's drought is at seven.

"We've gotten big goals from a lot of different people so far," forward Lee Stempniak said. "It's just a testament of how deep our team is."

He said the focus on the Penguins' top scorers from the regular season has presented opportunities for others.

"Obviously, Sid and Geno and [Kunitz] and James Neal are going to get a lot of the attention, a lot of the tougher matchups," Stempniak said. "So those sort of play out that way, and it sort of comes to the secondary scoring and the other players who can make a difference in the series."

The Penguins rallying down 2-0 and 3-1 Monday in Game 3 at Nationwide Arena for a 4-3 win highlighted their diversity in scoring.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who had two goals in 72 regular-season games, did a nifty toe drag to score with two seconds left in the second period, cutting the Blue Jackets' lead to 2-1.

After Columbus went ahead by two early in the third period, the Penguins got a deflection from Sutter, Stempniak's wrist shot and a tip in front from Jokinen for the win. None was highlight-reel material, but Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said he expects the same gritty effort will be needed in Game 4 to match the Blue Jackets' work rate.

"I don't think we can expect it to be an easy goal or a flash goal or a 2-and-1 or an odd-man opportunity," he said. "It's going to be dirty and ugly and that's where we've got to go and where we've got to get them from. And that's regardless whether Brandon Sutter's scoring at the net or getting goals from Crosby at the net."

Even though Pittsburgh won all five regular-season games against Columbus and have taken two of three in the series, center Joe Vitale said the Penguins are taking nothing for granted for Game 4.

"They bring an intensity. They bring a forecheck," he said of the Blue Jackets. "They're making our lives difficult. We've got to up it a little bit and play a little more desperate than they are."

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