Canes downgraded to depression; Pens on the brink

Between now and until a winner is determined in Tuesday's Game Four, we'll hear the following stat when talking about Carolina's chances of coming back in the series:

"Only three teams in professional sports have ever come back to win a series after being down 3-0: the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and the 2004 Boston Red Sox."

The odds are stacked against the Hurricanes going to their third Stanley Cup finals in the past seven years and unless they're able to find a way to stop Evgeni Malkin(notes), Sidney Crosby(notes) and the Pittsburgh offense, the end could come on Tuesday night.

Pittsburgh's two goals in 31 seconds at the end of the first period were the backbreaker. Carolina had been applying pressure throughout the opening frame, but the Hurricanes defense left Cam Ward(notes) out to dry all night and the Penguins capitalized on the mistakes. Ward saved the Canes blue liners bacon on numerous occasions and if not for some superb saves, this game might have gotten out of hand much earlier than it did. The Carolina net minder looks like a defeated man, one who's doing everything he can, but is getting letdown by his teammates.

It's also a tale of two different special teams in the series. The Penguins power play continues to cash in on their opportunities and has now scored in eight of their last nine games. Carolina's unit is 1-7 and went 0-2 on Game Three, including a critical missed opportunity in the third period when they were trailing by a goal.

Malkin and Crosby were again wreaking havoc every shift and the Art Ross Trophy winner once again used his 6'4 frame to his advantage to pot home two goals a game after netting a hat trick.

Seth Rorabaugh from Empty Netters gave Malkin high praise after his sixth straight multi-point game:

Are Crosby and Malkin giving each other every other series to be their individual showcases? In the first round, it was Malkin's show. In the second round, Crosby outshined Alex Ovechkin(notes). In the third, Malkin is playing like the best player in the world. He's blowing through Carolina's speed with a combination of speed and brute force. Almost everything he's tossing at a net is a real threat to become a goal. And the Hurricanes are just staring at him. They either are flatfooted when he has the puck or he just muscles through the Hurricane's defenders. He's clearly the MVP of this series.

And I don't even think his mom and dad were at RBC Center.

As we noted in the Headlines, when Eric Staal(notes) scores, Carolina wins and for the sixth straight game he was shutout. If Staal can't carry the load and Erik Cole(notes) hasn't scored in the playoffs in forever, whom can the Canes rely on?

Game Four has the feeling of a wake heading into Tuesday night. Bill Guerin's(notes) power play goal with just over a minute left showed how much Carolina had given up at that point in the game. The body language was not pretty and the usually loud RBC Center turned into Pittsburgh south as "Let's Go Pens" cheers increased towards the end of the game.

It's a mountain to climb for Carolina and they seem to have no answer for the Penguins.

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