PITTSBURGH - New locker-room humorist Evgeni Malkin is making fun of his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates in two languages, and they are loving it.
Sidney Crosby doesn't have a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals, yet he's smiling, too.
The yuk-it-up Penguins trail the defending champion Detroit Red Wings, two games to one, going into Game 4 tonight, but it was difficult to tell from their off-day levity that they weren't ahead.
They aren't acting at all the way they did when they were down a game in this same situation last year, against the same opponent. And it's certainly not because Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk, who is capable of winning a game at both ends of the ice, expects to play after sitting out six games with a foot injury.
Yesterday, Malkin repeatedly made fun of teammate Max Talbot, whose two goals during Pittsburgh's 4-2 win in Game 3 on Tuesday included one into an empty net.
Malkin did it in English, too, rather than the native Russian that the NHL regular-season scoring champion used before this season, with defenseman Sergei Gonchar acting as his interpreter.
Malkin: "I'm seeing how Max plays, it's a lot of emotion . . . and a little bit bad hands. He has a lot of scoring chances, but [does] not score. Just empty net."
Later, teammate Bill Guerin said: "People think he is a quiet guy. But he's got a great sense of humor to him."
A good set of hands, too. Malkin has 33 points, the most in the NHL playoffs since Joe Sakic had 34 for Colorado in 1996.
Malkin's play is one reason the Penguins are optimistic they can pull off a comeback after losing the first two games on the road, even though only one of 32 teams has overcome such a deficit in the Finals.