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Monday, June 2, 2008

About 20 minutes after a crushing Game 4 loss on Saturday, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby interrupted a reporter's question.

Crosby felt obliged when the reporter said, "You have to win three in a row ... "

"We have to win one," Crosby said. "We have to win one to get back (to Mellon Arena for Game 6)."

That's the reality of it, going into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final tonight at Joe Louis Arena. The Penguins trail the series, 3-1, and have no intention of watching the Detroit Red Wings celebrate.

"Yes, we're down," said forward Maxime Talbot, "but we're not dead."

Talbot then veered from the old one-game-at-a-time approach.

"I put it in these words: We're like in a Pee-Wee tournament right now, and we're in the quarterfinals," he said. "We have to win three games."

Though they have been outscored, 11-4, and outshot, 134-88, the Penguins believe they have played better each game. Coach Michel Therrien said his team had 12 scoring chances to Detroit's nine in the 2-1 loss in Game 4.

Detroit's Jiri Hudler snapped a 1-1 tie at 2:26 of the third period.

"Usually when we give up eight, nine, 10 scoring chances, we win those types of games," Therrien said. "They found a way to win. That's what good teams do. The winning goal, it was a broken play. The puck bounces, it hits (goalie) Marc-Andre Fleury's shoulder, hits the post and goes in. Does that mean that we're not good• That doesn't mean that. I thought our players played hard. I thought our players stuck to our plan."

The players felt that way, too. Defenseman Brooks Orpik believes it was the Penguins' most consistent effort of the series. Crosby shook his head when asked if the Penguins need to make tactical changes.

"I don't think so," Crosby said. "I mean, if you look at the past couple of games, they really haven't gotten that much, as far as scoring chances. We've done a pretty good job of really limiting them. They've got a lot of shots, but especially last game, there weren't as many quality ones."

Evgeni Malkin's struggles remain an issue. The Penguins' Hart Trophy candidate has yet to record a point in the series. The four-game pointless streak is the second-longest of his career. He went five games without a point from Feb. 27 to March 6 of last season.

"Whether it's him or anyone else, it's a tough time of year," Crosby said. "It's a time where you have to fight through a lot of things. It's not always easy. That's just part of the playoffs, and you have to battle through that. He believes in himself, and we believe in him.

"We've gotten this far because we've stuck together, and that's the way it's going to stay."

The Penguins cannot afford to dwell on Game 4, no matter the pain.

"It's a big difference, being 2-2 or 3-1, obviously," Orpik said. "It stings, but you have to move on quick. You can't go into Game 5 thinking about that one, or it's going to be pretty lopsided, like the first two."

Detroit won Games 1 and 2 by a combined score of 7-0.

Tonight, with the Cup in the house and the champagne on ice, the pressure and intensity will be ratcheted up.

"I don't think there's anything to be nervous about as long as we leave it all out there," Crosby said. "We have to make sure we empty the tank and play desperate and see where that takes us. I think we learned from Games 1 and 2."

Maybe Fleury has the right idea. Asked if there is any more the Penguins can do, he smiled and said, "If I can stop more pucks and we can score more goals, we should be all right."

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