There's a lot of outside negativity surrounding the Penguins after losing two straight games on the road to Nashville in the Stanley Cup Final.
That negativity hasn't crept inside the Penguins locker room.
The Pens are a confident, excited group heading into Game 5 of what is currently a tied series. They're returning home to an arena they've been excellent in all year, and they believe they'll get the result they want if they continue to play the same way.
"I'm proud of my team, I'm proud of every player here," Evgeni Malkin said. "It's not an easy season for us, so many injuries. But we're still playing, we're a good team and I know tomorrow we'll play so hard and it's a good situation for us. (The series is) 2-2, we're even. We're playing tomorrow here at home, it's a good chance to lead the series."
One storyline that followed the team back to Pittsburgh is that the Pens haven't been getting enough from Malkin and Kessel this series. However, Malkin scored in each of the first two games of the Final and leads the NHL with 26 points in 23 games. While he may not have tallied in the next two, he knows what he needs to do to improve for Game 5.
"It's not easy but I know I can be better, myself," he said. "Play more with the puck. Hold onto the puck a little more. I like to play with the puck. It's not easy, we're playing against a good team, but just play the same as we did the first two games at home. I think it's fine. Just a little harder, play with the puck a little more and use Phil more."
Speaking of his winger, Malkin is confident that Kessel - who ranks fourth in playoff scoring with 20 points - is also going to have a big performance in Game 5 after not scoring for six straight games.
"I feel it," Malkin said. "He's waited for a long time. He hasn't scored in a long time but now it's time. Last game, I think he showed his best game in this series and I see he's like ice. He plays so hard and I believe it, I feel it tomorrow, he'll show a great game."
Malkin added that he believes Kessel will get in the goal column.
"It's his time to score," Malkin said. "We know he's a great player and he's playing in a tough situation, now it's time for our leadership to show (with good games). We play at home, it's our building, our emotions. Just me and Phil, we need to bring our game and help the team to win."
Kessel said he believes he's getting closer to finding the back of the net, saying he's been getting chances and now, he just has to make them count.
"I had a couple of chances to hit the net a couple times where I probably should have hit the net and that happens," he said. "That's how it goes. That's hockey. I think you got to just keep going."
And when he does hit the net, as Crosby said, watch out.
"When he shoots, good things happen, whether it's him scoring or for other guys," Crosby said. "He has a good shot. It's hard for other goalies to handle and if he's getting those looks, I like the chances of the puck going in."
Another storyline surrounding this team is that they're just too tired and don't have enough left in the tank after making a second straight run to the Final following a short summer, the World Cup and dealing with so many injuries. This team will play over 200 games (regular season and playoffs) over a two-year span.
But as Malkin, Crosby and Kessel reminded everyone, playing in the Final with a chance to win another Stanley Cup is more than enough motivation for them to dig deep.
"Just winning," Crosby said of his motivation. "I think when you come this far, I feel good. I've been playing a lot and sometimes when you just keep going, it's a little better that way.
There's a lot of motivation here, so I think right now I feel really good and excited for the opportunity."
"Obviously they're two really good years, right?" Kessel pointed out with a laugh. "Three games left potentially, and just keep going. Keep battling and hopefully we can get the wins."
Malkin also reiterated that they only have three games left at the most, and he knows they have enough gas to get through it.
"We have a short summer, but it's a fun summer," Malkin said. "When you win, it's so much fun. I know people talk about how we're tired, but believe me, they're tired too. It's not only us tired. It's only three games left. We're not talking about being tired.
"We have four good lines, we have young guys, they're flying and I'm not tired, myself. I want to play. It's so much fun right now because we're playing in the Final. I'm not feeling I'm tired. I feel excited for tomorrow and I can't wait."