Don't expect Penguins' Sidney Crosby's goal drought to last much longer

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby has not scored in his past eight playoff games. (Getty Images/AFP)

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby has not scored in his past eight playoff games. (Getty Images/AFP)

Terry Koshan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:30 AM ET

COLUMBUS - Eight playoff games for Sidney Crosby without a goal.

Seven for Evgeni Malkin. Seven for James Neal. Four for Chris Kunitz.

Each of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ usual offensive threats are in post-season goal funks, but the Columbus Blue Jackets still find themselves trailing the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal 2-1 with Game 4 at Nationwide Arena on Wednesday night.

“Their depth is starting to show,” Jackets forward Mark Letestu said on Tuesday. “With those guys not scoring, they are finding goals from other places.

“You hope (that keeping the four off the scoreboard) is sustained. They are still creating offence. They’re finding a way.”

Crosby has four assists in the series and Malkin three, while Neal has a team-high 16 shots on goal. The chances have been there overall — the four Penguins have combined for 46 of Pittsburgh’s 115 shots on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, or 40%.

But the Penguins have not missed a beat. And their power play has produced just three goals in 17 chances.

“We have some of the best players in the world, but it is not fair to rely on them all the time,” forward Lee Stempniak said. “For us, the mentality we have is everyone has to step up and get out of their comfort zone, do something to contribute. We have a lot of big goals from a lot of different people so far and it’s a testament to how deep our team is.”

The catch for the Jackets is they have to win three games to take the series, and only four remain. It’s difficult to see the shutout against Crosby and Co. continuing no matter how hard the Jackets play.

POINT SHOTS

Jackets defenceman Jack Johnson, who said in the minutes after Game 3 that the Penguins were “nothing special,” didn’t lose that confidence over night.

“There is nothing really to recover from,” Johnson said, referring to the Jackets losing after twice leading by two goals. “Like any other city, you have to have a perennial winner to create a buzz around your team every night. We’re well on our way.” ... The Jackets, naturally, are thrilled to be playing home games in the playoffs for just the second time, but the sense is that they are relieved the first one is history. “I think the emotion at times kind of derailed us, and what I mean by that is our thinking on the ice,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “We got caught up in the moment at times, myself included, where it sidetracked our game. We were out of position, our structure was not as good as Game 2 was after the first period. We know what to expect now.” ... The goaltending hasn’t been consistently spectacular on either side, but it hasn’t been dreadful either. It could be that Bobrovsky has to wind up stealing a game for Columbus and, if his team again gets outshot as badly as it did in Game 3 (41-20), that will be a certainty. Bobrovsky has a .904 save percentage, while Marc-Andre Fleury is at .899. Both are capable of being much better ... Stempniak, hitting the nail on the head: “We have not played our best hockey by any means.” ... Injured forwards Brian Gibbons (upper body) and Marcel Goc (foot) skated on Tuesday as Pittsburgh held an optional practice, but Pens coach Dan Bylsma would not provide an update on the status of either. The Penguins’ bold-face players, including Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Kris Letang, did not skate and were not made available for interviews.

FROM THE HASH MARKS

There were 31 power plays in the first three games (17 for the Penguins and 14 for the Blue Jackets), the most in any of the series before games on Tuesday night. But there has not been much garbage happening after whistles, a time when playoff foes often think it’s a good time to sharpen their face-washing skills. “I think it’s because each team does not want to get sucked into a penalty battle,” veteran Penguins defenceman Rob Scuderi said. “There have been a lot of penalties in this series, but they have been kind of the odd variety for the playoffs. Usually, you expect more roughing, more scrums, refs taking one or two guys from those piles. I don’t think anyone wants to get involved with anything else.” ... Penguins rookie defenceman Olli Maatta can relate to the Jackets’ youth. Maatta is the youngest player in the series — he won’t be 20 until Aug. 22 — but played in the Olympics for Finland this past winter and gets to battle against Crosby and Malkin in practice. Those experiences have played a role in Maatta’s learning curve. “My confidence drops down a little bit going against them,” Maatta said with a chuckle. “It’s tough, but it improves you a lot. The Olympics helped a lot. It’s still hockey, but (playing in Sochi) calms me down in these games. Playoff games are more intense, like they were in the Olympics.” ... Perhaps Bylsma can use this observation from Johnson when he prepares his club for Game 4. Why has Johnson scored in three consecutive games for the first time in his NHL career? “On all of them, I have not had a Pittsburgh guy around me,” Johnson said. “Usually, other teams are very aware of where the other team’s defencemen are around them. It has been a little bit of luck, and being in the right place at the right time.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

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