Penguins' offensive stars need to come out tonight

The offensive stars have not come out against Boston, leaving the Penguins in a precarious spot


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BOSTON -- It's pretty revealing that Boston center David Krejci has scored twice as many goals as the Penguins -- yes, the entire rookery -- in the Eastern Conference final.

It says even more, however, that Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton, fresh off a seven-point regular season, has made it onto the score sheet in this series more often than Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang.

Combined.

And not because Thornton suddenly has discovered a scoring touch as the Penguins and Bruins have moved toward Game 4 at 8:10 p.m. today at TD Garden.

Frankly, his hands still do their best work when made into a fist.

But the assist he picked up in Game 2 gives Thornton one more point than all of those big-ticket Penguins have generated to this point of the series. Which is a big part of the reason the Bruins will have a chance to close it -- and the Penguins' season -- tonight.

Boston owns a 3-0 lead in the Eastern final, and only three clubs in Stanley Cup history, the 2010 Bruins among them, have failed to win a best-of-seven after building that kind of advantage.

So, while the odds of the Penguins overcoming such a deficit are a bit better than their chances of, say, winning the next Powerball drawing, this likely isn't the time to begin printing tickets for the next round, either.

"Obviously, it's not a good situation," goalie Tomas Vokoun said Thursday. "But, on the other hand, you're still alive."

Likely not for much longer, though, unless they figure out a way to get more than one puck past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. That's how many they've managed in each of the past two games after getting shut out in the opener.

This from a group that averaged better than a goal per period during the first two rounds.

They shouldn't expect do to that against Boston, at least not on a regular basis, but were encouraged by the scoring opportunities they manufactured Wednesday, even though only one resulted in a goal.

"On any given night, if some of the chances we had go in, it could be five or six goals," center Brandon Sutter said. "We need to stay positive with what we did offensively and try to build on that."

That will become a lot more likely if their two world-class centers, Crosby and Malkin, can find a way to accumulate points.

Boston's 3-0 lead is irrefutable evidence that neither has had the impact of which he is capable, although Malkin was highly visible in Game 3. He accounted for 10 of the Penguins' 54 shots and was responsible for a few close calls.

"I think it's pretty obvious to everybody that Malkin was at his best [in Game 3]," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He was outstanding."

The Penguins did not practice Thursday, when Sutter and Vokoun were among four players who participated in a media availability session at the team hotel. Coincidentally, that's roughly the same number that showed up for what became a 6-1 loss in Game 2, when the series truly began to get away from the Penguins.

"In Game 2, you didn't see the Pittsburgh Penguins," left winger Matt Cooke said Thursday.

"We need to be the team we believe we are, and go back to what's made us successful in the past."

Precisely which personnel will be charged with doing that tonight isn't clear. Coach Dan Bylsma added rookie Beau Bennett to his lineup for Game 3 and suggested Thursday that more changes are possible tonight, in part because the game Wednesday night spanned nearly five periods.

"Given ... the number of minutes we played and the type of game we just played, having some guys come into our lineup and add is certainly a consideration for Game 4," he said.

Replacing defenseman Brooks Orpik, who seemed a bit dazed after absorbing a check from Bruins winger Milan Lucic in Game 3, apparently won't be necessary.

Bylsma said Orpik isn't experiencing "ramifications of the hit."

He also offered an interesting perspective on the Penguins' challenge, pointing out that Canada had to win elimination games against Germany, Russia, Slovakia and the U.S. to claim the gold medal at the 2010 Olympics. Lose any of them, and it wouldn't have happened.

There's a key difference -- someone is guaranteed to win Olympic gold, while no team is assured of overcoming a 3-0 playoff deficit -- but that kind of positive thinking that could serve his club well.

"If you were betting right now, you're not betting on the Penguins, down, 3-0, but we're not going to quit," Sutter said.

"The percentages obviously are against us, but we have a good team.

"We're taking this day by day. We're focused on winning one game and going from there."

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published June 7, 2013 4:00 AM


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