OTTAWA -- James Neal is a goal-scorer.
Most of the time, that is a terrific thing for the Penguins.
Not so through the early weeks of the 2013 playoffs, however, because Neal has been, well, a goal-scorer.
Which is to say, a guy who has scored a goal.
Neal enters Game 4 of the second-round series against Ottawa at 7:38 p.m. today at Scotiabank Place with just one in seven playoff games, none in the past five.
That's well off the pace he set in 2011-12, when he scored 40 in 80 games, or during the 2013 regular season, when he got 21 in 40.
Clearly, Neal's goal production to this point in the postseason qualifies as a dry spell.
What it doesn't constitute, his teammates and coaches say, is a crisis. Or a concern.
"A lot of goal-scorers are streaky, and the most important thing is winning games," linemate Jarome Iginla said Tuesday. "You know he's going to score goals."
Neal actually was consistent during the regular season.
Aside from one nine-game stretch in March in which he failed to score, he never went more than two games without a goal.
And while it would be foolhardy to predict that a breakout is imminent when he will be facing a goalie as accomplished as Ottawa's Craig Anderson, Neal is encouraged by what he has been able to do recently.
Penguins at Ottawa Senators, 7:38 p.m. today, Scotiabank Place.
- TV, Radio:
NBC Sports Network, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders:
Tomas Vokoun for Penguins. Craig Anderson for Senators.
Are 24-25 in Game 4s, including 16-13 mark on road. ... RW James Neal does not have goal in past five games. ... Have lost two or more games in a row in four of their past six playoff series.
Are 3-0 at home in Rounds 1 and 2. ... RW Daniel Alfredsson is only Ottawa player averaging a point-per-game in these playoffs. ... Have allowed average of 37.8 shots per game, most of any team remaining in the postseason.
- Hidden stat:
Penguins are 5-7 in their past 12 away playoff games, with only two of those victories coming in regulation.
He was credited with a total of nine shots on goal over the past two games after getting just one in each of the previous two and said that indicates he is doing what is necessary to score goals, even if they haven't been going in.
"If you're getting shots, you're putting yourself in the right position," he said Tuesday.
"For me, I obviously try to use my shot as much as possible. If my game wasn't there or I wasn't playing the way I liked, I'd be worried.
"But, when you're getting shots, you're getting chances and you're creating things, it's different."
Of course, it doesn't help that limiting the damage done by Neal and his linemates, Iginla and Evgeni Malkin, appears to be high on the Senators' to-do list.
"It's tough to get those good scoring chances," Neal said. "They're boxing you out, they're coming hard at you and not giving you much room."
Which is pretty much what Ottawa had in mind, although the Penguins' bounty of high-end offensive talent makes it tough for the Senators to focus their defensive efforts too narrowly.
"I think we're trying to key on everyone," defenseman Jared Cowen said.
"They have a pretty stacked lineup, from our point of view. A lot of great players there.
"[Neal is] just another player in the lineup we're trying to key on. He's got such a great shot, I think we're trying to push him outside and give him worse angles to work with."
Even with a modest contribution from Neal, the Penguins offense has been the NHL's most prolific in these playoffs. The Penguins are averaging 3.78 goals per game and have gotten two or more goals from nine different players.
"I don't think there's a panic to score goals," Iginla said.
"A lot of different guys, all year, have scored goals and, in the playoffs, we've scored goals."
Neal averaged 3.4 shots per game in the regular season, compared to 2.42 in the playoffs, and said his personal shot total tends to reflect the overall quality of his work.
If so, he likely will embrace teammate Sidney Crosby's strategy for ending a goal-scoring slump.
"I just try not to pass up any shots," he said.
"Whenever you get an opportunity to shoot, especially when things don't seem to be going your way, you make sure you get it on net.
"It's no secret, you have to get to the net. That's where you're going to see the most pucks. The odds are eventually you're going to get a rebound or get a tip or the puck is going to hit something."
It's worth noting that this relatively brief drought is not Neal's first, nor is it his worst. He scored just once in his first 20 regular-season games after being acquired from Dallas and added just one more in seven playoff games against Tampa Bay.
"The toughest part was when I first came to Pittsburgh, I couldn't score for the life of me," Neal said.
"But, at the same time, I think my game was OK and I was still doing the exact same things, but I couldn't find one.
"It will come. As long as our team's winning, I'm really not worried about anything."
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published May 22, 2013 4:00 AM