PITTSBURGH (AP) -Maybe they should forget they're in the Stanley Cup finals. Or that they're playing the Detroit Red Wings, the team already being anointed as the NHL's next champion.
Most of all, Pittsburgh forward Max Talbot said, the Penguins should ignore the fact that the only way they can win the Stanley Cup is to be the first team in 66 years to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the finals.
With much of the hockey world anticipating the Red Wings will raise the Cup in their own arena in Game 5 on Monday night, Talbot said the Penguins should go back to being kids, playing before a few family members in a frigid rink.
"I put it this way, we're in a Peewee tournament right now and we're in the quarterfinals," Talbot said Sunday. "We have to win the next three games and it's do or die. If you want to win the finals, you have to win the three games and that's where we are right now."
That's where the Penguins put themselves, too, in the most precarious of positions going back to Joe Louis Arena, where they scored zero goals in two games to begin the series.
In a potentially pivotal Game 4 on Saturday night, the Penguins couldn't hold a 1-0 lead, couldn't score on a lengthy 5-on-3 in the third period, couldn't get a goal from Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin but did allow Detroit's fourth line to score the decisive goal.
All that added up to a series-altering 2-1 loss that sent the Penguins back to Detroit with no promise they'll play another game in Pittsburgh that counts until October.
"We've got to leave it out there," Crosby said. "I don't think there's really anything to be nervous about. ... We have to make sure we empty the tank and play desperate and see where that takes us."
Back to Pittsburgh for Game 6 on Wednesday? That might seem like wishful thinking given the Red Wings' home-ice domination in Games 1 and 2, when they won by a combined score of 7-0.
"We've got nothing to lose right now. It's either win or come home," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "It's come this far, and we've got a competitive group that I think will be real desperate."
Are the Penguins desperate, discouraged or becoming resigned to their inevitable fate?
Coach Michel Therrien, asked about possible lineup changes or strategic adjustments, talked instead about how Henrik Zetterberg's exceptional play to keep Crosby from taking a shot from the side of the net during the 5-on-3 might have decided Game 4.
From the wistful and what-if way Therrien was talking, maybe he was thinking about how the play might decide the series, too.
"Zetterberg made the right play," Therrien said. "If he's not there it's an open net and we're all saying today, `Oh!' It's a matter of a second, one little second. (If Crosby scores) we're all saying today, `Oh, how great we are.' That's hockey and we've got to move on."
There will be no moving on for the Penguins unless they can find a way to score; they've got four goals in four games, with only three players scoring so far.
Or if the Penguins can't get more production from a power play that is 2-for-17. Or if they keep getting dominated in the third period, when Detroit has a 6-1 scoring edge.
Or if Malkin, shut out in the series after being the league's No. 2 scorer during the season, doesn't put aside the disappointment and discouragement that is beginning to show in his skating and shooting.
"He's down because he cares," defenseman Darryl Sydor said. "He's a great kid. He's taken a lot on his shoulders this year. ... He wants this and he's trying really hard."
Crosby also supported Malkin, saying the top players on both teams are finding it difficult to score and that "he believes in himself and we believe in him."
The Penguins are hoping that they will be more confident, relaxed and less nervous than they were while losing 4-0 in Game 1 and 3-0 in Game 2.
While no team has rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win the Stanley Cup since the 1942 Maple Leafs against the Red Wings, elimination games haven't been the easiest to win during recent finals.
While the Ducks a year ago and the Red Wings in 2002 each closed out the finals in Game 5, Carolina needed three potential elimination games to oust Edmonton in 2006. And Calgary in 2004 and New Jersey in 2001 couldn't hold 3-2 series leads and lost the Cup.
"I really believe that, if we play our game, we've got a great chance to win. ... When you're facing that point (elimination), sometimes it brings out the best in you," Crosby said.