PITTSBURGH -- Phil Kessel has one point in the Stanley Cup final, that being an assist in Game Two. He has no goals in his last six games. Evgeni Malkin scored in the first two games but was pointless in the last two. Even though they came up empty on the scoresheet, both felt Game Four was a good one for them and are hoping to generate the same kind of offense Thursday night in Game Five.
The Penguins need their top players to be their best players against the Nashville Predators, and that means Kessel and Malkin joining Sidney Crosby at the head of the offensive attack.
"I know I can be better myself," said Malkin, who leads the NHL in playoff scoring with 26 points. "Play more with the puck. Hold onto the puck a little more. I like to play with the puck. It's not easy, we're playing against a good team, but just play the same as we did the first two games at home. I think it's fine."
Malkin and Kessel combined for 15 shot attempts in Game Four (eight by Kessel) but only two apiece hit the net.
"I missed the net a couple times where I probably should have hit the net," Kessel said. "It happens. It’s hockey, right? I think you’ve just got to keep going.
Malkin predicted Kessel would get on the board in Game Five.
"It's his time to score," Malkin said. "We know he's a great player and he's playing in a tough situation. Now It's time for our leadership to show. We play at home, it's our building, our emotions. Just me and Phil, we need to bring our game and help the team win."
Malkin has become more talkative in recent years and able to carry on good converstions with reporters in his broken English. The Kessel prediction is a sign of that.
"He always is fairly animated, especially around the locker room, in a casual environment," said coach Mike Sullivan. "He's got a great sense of humor. I think he enjoys his teammates. I know he loves the game. I think he's one of those guys that is a fun guy to be around."
Sullivan credited Hall of Famer and Penguins owner Mario Lemieux with adding another set of eyes that's shared with the coaching staff.
"He's at a lot of the games. He comes down, shares his insight," Sullivan said. "We certainly value what he brings. Obviously he thinks the game on a certain level that most people don't think the game. We value his input. Mario is great because he does entrust us with making the right decisions. He does empower us to do our jobs, which we're very appreciative of. But we certainly value his insights and his observations."
The Predators won Game One on the road in each of their three previous series but went 0 for 2 in Pittsburgh to start the final. Obviously, they can't win the Cup without a victory in Pittsburgh, in either Game Five or Game Seven.
"We know we can play better in this building," captain Mike Fisher said Wednesday. "We know we're going to have to. This is a team that in Games One and Two, there were a few minutes where we liked our game for some of it, then other parts of it they took over. They capitalized. We did a better job of managing the game that way in Games Three and Four
"We know this game we're going to have to be at our best, there's no question. We know who we're facing, in their building. We got to be ready to be at our best. We know it's an exciting challenge. I think you'll see we'll be ready for it."
Before this series, only one rookie had posted conseuctive game-winning goals in a Cup final and that was Boston's Roy Conacher in 1939 vs. Toronto. It's been done twice in this series, by Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel (Games 1-2) and Nashville's Frederick Gaudreau (Games 3-4).
The Predators are the 13th team to even the Cup final at 2-2 after falling behind, 2-0, and the first since the 2011 Bruins against Vancouver. Four of the previous 12 won the Cup: The 1966 and 1971 Montreal Canadiens, the 2009 Penguins and the '11 Bruins.
Pittsburgh's Patrick Hornqvist sat out practice with a maintenance day. Center Nick Bonino (ankle) tried to play in Game Four but let the ice in warmups. Sullivan said he remains day to day.