The Penguins could have their season ended Wednesday night, unless they can find a way to play an entire game close to the form they showed during the regular season. They enter Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the Philadelphia Flyers down 3-0.
"The thing that gives you hope is that we know we haven't played well for a full game, or probably even half a game," said Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik.
"We've got find a way to put together a full game. That's really what it comes down to," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who dropped his gloves with Flyers star Claude Giroux in a nasty Game 3. "There's been a lot of periods in games where we've looked really good, but there's also times where we've made big mistakes.
"We'd all love to see the result with a full game and hopefully it will be the result we want. We all feel we owe it to ourselves to at least put together a full game here and see what happens."
The conduct of several Penguins in Game 3 resulted in them being forced to sit Wednesday night.
Forward James Neal was suspended for one game for a couple of questionable hits. Winger Arron Asham was banned four games for his crosscheck and punch to the head of Flyers rookie Brayden Schenn. And winger Craig Adams has a one-game suspension for picking up an instigator penalty in the last five minutes of Game 3.
Crosby swiped away the glove of Flyers forward Jakub Voracek at one point and said after the game he did it because "I don't like him."
That inspired the Flyers to emblazon t-shirts they give away to fans each game with the following: "Guess what? We don't like you either."
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux "was disappointed with his club's overall lack of discipline and embarrassed with the dirty plays by Asham and Neal in Game 3, sources close to Lemieux said."
Some Penguins fans on the message boards weren't proud of their team's conduct either.
"They can say whatever they want. We know what kind of team we are in here," said Neal, who caught Penguins rookie Sean Couturier with a late hit and was given a charging penalty for a run at Giroux. "I don't think we're anything dirty or anything like that. We play the game hard and we play it physical. When you have stars like we do here, you're always going to have some criticism."
Neal said he told Shanahan he wasn't trying to injure the Flyers.
"I'm not trying to hurt anybody or anything like that. I'm going at a high rate of speed and I try to brace myself as much as possible," he said.
Keeping their cool is one challenge for the Penguins.
Another will be getting scoring champ Evgeni Malkin break free from the blanket thrown over him by Couturier, the teenage rookie, and linemate Max Talbot, the ex-Pen who, along with the rest of the Flyers on the ice, have limited him to no goals so far.
Couturier and Talbot each have three.
Laviolette was asked if he though Talbot, signed as a free agent last summer, could have had this much impact.
"When players are on other teams and they play different systems for different coaches with different goals, I don't think there's a way to exactly know what a player is going to do or how they are going to fit," he said.
"I think he has come in here and he has really enjoyed his role. He's real confident about his game and our team game right now. He's a leader and he's smothered in character. That's been real important for our team."
Sounds like the Penguins need a guy like that.
Starting Wednesday night.