PITTSBURGH -- Maxime Talbot hates the Detroit Red Wings.
What's he's hoping, like all of his teammates, is that he can hate them for a lot longer than the next two games.
"They're easy to hate," said Talbot, searching for something, anything, to grasp on to with the Pittsburgh Penguins falling fast in the Stanley Cup final. It isn't easy right now to be a Penguin. It isn't easy to have your dreams extinguished so rapidly and so decisively.
So the Penguins have talked about their youth. They have talked about their desire. They have talked about puck possession. They have talked about coming home and their winning record here. They have talked about not losing their confidence. They have talked a better game than they have played through two games of the final.
And now it is about hate for the Red Wings.
"I do (hate them)," said Talbot, who has been elevated to the Penguins' second line. "Last game was chippy and dirty and hopefully the next one is going to be too. They're in the way of the prize we want. We have to hate them for that. They're easy to hate."
But first, you need the puck. Hating them is meaningless if the Penguins don't find a way to get the puck. They have lost two games in the final, been shut out twice, and not necessarily because they have played terribly.
"I don't want to sit here and give them too much credit," said Pittsburgh's Gary Roberts, the veteran winger, who then gave them too much credit. "But they play a real smart game. They don't give you much room. It feels like they have five guys on the puck all the time. We have to get more pucks on (Chris) Osgood. We're making him look too good.
"Listen, it's not a lot of fun (to play them). You feel like you're chasing the puck all night, all over the ice. You use up so much energy that by the time you get it, you're exhausted."
It is frustrating enough to create a little hockey hatred. Even if some of it is more manufactured than real. If the Penguins need to get angry to get back in this series, bless them. Because if they don't do something fast, the season ends Saturday.
"I don't know if you think they are going to sweep us in four but I don't think so," Talbot said. Through three rounds of the playoffs, the Penguins never trailed in a series, lost just two games combined, never looked anything but confident.
Through two games against the Wings, they have no goals, few scoring chances, almost no sustained pressure and seemingly no answers.
Talbot wants to hate. Roberts would like to find some hate but isn't sure it will come that easily.
So they do what a lot of athletes do at crisis time. They invent stuff. They manufacture conflict. They tried it by running players late in Game 2. They have tried it by complaining that the Wings are "obstructing" the Penguins illegally and bringing that to the officials' attention. They have tried it by pointing the finger at Osgood's diving and attempts to draw penalties in Game 2.
"We can't sit here and be shell-shocked that we're playing a team that doesn't give us the puck," Roberts said. "We've got to find a way to get the puck. We have to find a way to play our game.
"They don't really make you mad at them. We need to find a way to hate that team."