One day after Flyers coach John Stevens tried to pump some confidence into rookie winger Steve Downie, he tore it down with a flourish.

For the second straight game in the NHL Eastern Conference finals, Downie committed a glaring turnover that led to a pivotal third-period goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Last night, Downie's pass landed right on the stick of Penguins center Evgeni Malkin to start a rush that led to a goal by Ryan Malone. Instead of having a chance to tie the game, the Flyers were two goals down and eventually lost, 4-1, to fall into a three-games-to-none hole in the series.

Downie appeared crushed after the game, his answers to reporters ranging from one to a few words. But Stevens did not flinch when asked how the 21-year-old might handle this latest mistake.

"His feelings are not important right now, to be honest with you," Stevens said. "We put him back in because he's a big-game player. But he has got to learn and obviously he hasn't.

"You can't make that play, a flat pass going into the offensive zone with Malkin on the ice. It hasn't worked all series. I don't know why we think it's going to work now."

Coming to the end of his shift, Downie worked hard to get the puck into his offensive zone against three Penguins. But he badly telegraphed his pass as a teammate entered the zone at the top of the slot and Malkin made an easy interception.

Malkin led the charge across the blue line and fed Petr Sykora in the left-wing circle. Sykora passed the puck in front to Malone, who backhanded it past Marty Biron at 9 minutes, 58 seconds of the third to make it a 3-1 game.

Downie steamrolled into Sykora after the Pittsburgh winger had made his pass. Sykora was down on the ice for almost a minute and favoring his left hand and arm.

Just two nights earlier in Game 2, Downie tried to clear the puck out of the Flyers' zone near his blue line but turned it over, leading to the game-winning goal by Maxime Talbot at 8:51 of the third period.

Stevens took time Monday to pick up Downie, calling him "a stand-up guy."

"He knows he made a mistake there," the coach said then. "There will be lots more good days for Steve Downie and he's going to be a good player in the league. That's a part of his game I'm sure now that he's going to be determined to perfect after something like that will stand in his mind."

When Stevens' postgame comments last night were relayed to Downie, he replied: "What do you want him to say? It happened. That's what happened. I gave the puck up, bottom line."

Later, he said: "I'm trying to make a play. We're down a goal. I'm trying to make a play and it didn't work out.

"I gave up the chance to tie the game and going down two goals with not much time left. It wasn't a good play."

Before Malone's goal, the Flyers had kept the Penguins off the scoreboard for more than two full periods after falling behind by 2-0 early in the first period. They entered the third period trailing by 2-1 and tried to get some pressure on Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, but they never could tie it before Downie's miscue.

It remains to be seen whether Downie will be given another chance in Game 4 tomorrow night, or if Stevens will go back to Patrick Thoresen on the fourth line. But Downie may not have his confidence back by then.

"Yeah, definitely," he replied when asked if his confidence was shaken. "But I've got to forget about this and try to win Game 4."