Rise and shine, Sid

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby has taken a back seat at the Stanley Cup final.

Much of the talk leading up to Game 4 tonight has been about Crosby's lack of production during the first three games of the series. The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar is riding shotgun to Evgeni Malkin with the Pens down 2-1 to the Detroit Red Wings.

Malkin's three-point performance in the Penguins' 4-2 win over the Wings in Game 3 eased some of the burden on Crosby. The bottom line is that the Penguins will not have success in this series unless Crosby is firing on all cylinders and that's going to have to happen fast.

Crosby admitted yesterday that he has felt frustrated. He needs to do a better job fighting through the tough checking of Red Wings centre Henrik Zetterberg and their top defence pair of Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom, who Detroit coach Mike Babcock tries to use against Crosby as often as possible.

"It's a challenge, for sure," said Crosby. "We realize that. Personally, it's probably about being a little more patient more than anything. You know, finding ways to create chances. And, when you get them, taking advantage of them."

During Game 3, Babcock kept changing Zetterberg's wingers to make sure he got a matchup against Crosby. The strategy worked. However, Malkin's performance raised the question whether the Wings should focus on No. 71, instead of No. 87.

Crosby won a couple important faceoffs -- including one in the third period just before the winner by Sergei Gonchar -- but needs to do more. Crosby had been on fire in the playoffs with 29 points (14G-15A) in 20 games. The Penguins can't afford to have him step back now.

"You don't want to accept not generating things, but at the same time, you've got to play the right way and trust that," said Crosby.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said somebody has to take some of the heat off Crosby.

"As a team, we need to do a better job playing in the offensive zone, winning faceoffs, keeping pressure on them and that doesn't allow them to get the numerous changes like they did (in Game 3) with Zetterberg," said. "Better play in the offensive zone would make those matchups better, even better for us."

In last season's final, Malkin took the heat for not playing well. He has matured this year, taking his game to another level. Crosby noted the young Russian's play has taken some of the pressure off him to perform.

"Maybe a little bit. All the time, I feel like we have support," he said. "Not just with (Malkin), but with everyone. Certainly, when he's out there, if anything, you just want to follow it up. It doesn't make you change your game or doesn't take pressure off you.

"It just probably (motivates) you even more to go out there and follow it up, knowing that he's doing his part and you want to do yours."

Malkin is aware he is benefiting from the attention Crosby is getting.

"(Crosby) plays with Zetterberg every shift," said Malkin. "Of course, I have more area and more space. I'm trying to help my team."

Just imagine how powerful the Penguins would be if they had both players firing on all cylinders.

Off the glass

Malkin showed a sense of humour yesterday when he was asked about the contributions of F Maxime Talbot, his linemate. "Yeah, (he has) a little bit bad hands, he has a lot of scoring chances, and doesn't score -- just in the empty net. It's okay, he'll learn in the summer," said Malkin with a huge smile. "No, I like playing with him. It's lots of emotion and he plays the whole game nonstop." The good-natured Talbot wasn't sure how to react. "I'm speechless right now," he said.


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