Subpar Malkin just won't do

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- As the rave reviews continue to be heaped on the hit hockey series, Sid and Ovie, the NHL's leading scorer continues to play the role of worst supporting actor.

Yes, there was an Evgeni Malkin sighting at the Penguins' suburban practice facility yesterday. But like he has been through two losing efforts in the best-of-seven series, it was brief and ultimately fruitless.

The call from Penguins players as they prepared for tonight's Game 3 at Mellon Arena trying to get back into a series the Washington Capitals lead 2-0, is for "secondary scoring." The question without an answer is how the regular-season points champ has been reduced to such status?

"Other players have to step up," Pens centre Jordan Staal said yesterday following the Pens' optional skate. "Sid can't score them all."

Sidney Crosby did the other night, matching Alexander Ovechkin's hat trick with one of his own in Washington's 4-3 win. In fact, Crosby has scored four of his team's five goals in the series that now shifts to the Steel City for games tonight and Friday.

Crosby's linemate, Bill Guerin, said the Pens need only to look to their Kid captain to see what it takes to succeed.

While Ovechkin fires from everywhere -- his 12 shots were a game high in Game 2 -- often leading to highlight quality goals, Crosby is turning into a young Phil Esposito, parking at the goalmouth and jamming them in.

"See where he's scoring his goals from and they are all within two feet of the net," Guerin said. "He's obviously a kid with a lot of courage and a lot of heart, but he goes to the hard places to score his goals."

Malkin, meanwhile, has been invisible. If he'd go to the net like he did on his brisk dash through the dressing room yesterday to avoid reporters, he might be all right. Though he has the same amount of playoff points as Ovechkin (11), Malkin now has gone goalless in his past five games

"You need everyone," Crosby said. "It hasn't been for lack of effort. The fact is, when you don't get on the score sheet as much or things don't go the right way, it's easy to point the finger.

"If (Malkin) puts one in (Monday), no one's talking about him -- it's a fine line. I could have went to the net and had two pucks not go in, but they did and we're saying I was able to capitalize."

Unlike the previous time they trailed 2-0 in a playoff series -- shutout losses against Detroit to start last year's Stanley Cup final -- the Pens know that with a bounce here or there, they could be returning home to a wild Mellon Arena crowd with a split.

"We've outshot and outchanced them both games," forward Matt Cooke said. "We probably had four or five opportunities last game that were arguably goals any other night are going to go in. We can't get impatient, we can't get frustrated."


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