The Detroit Red Wings gave up the fewest number of goals in the NHL during the regular season, so their defensive prowess should not come as a surprise to the Penguins. Not having faced the Red Wings in the regular season, the Penguins did not know exactly how the Red Wings accomplished that feat.
- Matchup: Detroit Red Wings at Penguins, 8:08 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
- Series: Red Wings lead, 2-0.
- TV, radio: WPXI-TV; WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Chris Osgood for Red Wings.
- Penguins: Have lost at least three games in row in each of past four series that ended their season. ... D Brooks Orpik registered 12 of team's 64 hits during Games 1 and 2. ... Have gone consecutive games without power-play goal for first time in these playoffs.
- Red Wings: Are 5-3 on road in these playoffs. ... C Kris Draper is 23-14 on faceoffs in series. ... Eight players had at least one point in first two games.
- Hidden stat: Detroit is 12-1 in playoffs when scoring the first goal.
But Penguins coach Michel Therrien has concluded that generating scoring chances against Detroit is hard to do because of their ability to subtly obstruct the opponent.
For the second day in a row, Therrien credited Detroit for its ability to shut down his team, but he also made clear that the Red Wings blur the line between outstanding defense and breaking the rules, specifically the way their players impede the progress of the Penguins to the puck.
"This is a team that it's tough to generate offense with the obstruction that they're doing," Therrien said yesterday after the Penguins optional skate at Mellon Arena. "But you know what? They're doing it the right way. It's like there's a dotted line. Sometimes, they cross it a little bit."
Therrien said there would be no major changes with his team's strategy. He said the Penguins merely need to execute the game plan better and create confusion in front of goalie Chris Osgood, who has kept the Penguins off the scoreboard through the first six periods of the series while also managing to draw two penalties.
"You need to score dirty goals," Therrien said.
"The tic-tac-toe plays, sometimes it's going to happen. But most of the time you're going to put the puck to the net and crash the net. This is where it's tough for us because Osgood, like we saw yesterday on [Ryan] Malone ... he's there to go to the front of the net. If he's going to go at the players and fall down, it's tough to score dirty goals."
It has become apparent that the Red Wings are a tough team to beat when they score the first goal. They are 12-1 in the playoffs when scoring first and 2-3 when the opponent scores first.
The Penguins have had early chances in each of the first two games to get the first goal but have not capitalized on their opportunities. They had four power plays in the first period of Game 1 and came up empty, and Malone missed the net on a point-blank shot a little more than a minute into Game 2.
"It was one of those chances you can't afford to miss," Malone said.
"Sid [Crosby] drew two guys, and I was trying to get open. I realized I was below the hash marks, almost on top of the crease, so I figured if I took control of the puck [Osgood] would poke check it. I just tried to one-time it on net and I fanned on it."
Presumably, the Penguins could force the Red Wings out of their defensive-minded approach if they can score first in Game 3.
"It would be nice to get the first goal, to see if they play different," Malone said. "We have to stay positive and believe in each other."
Crosby said the Penguins have to capitalize on their opportunities when presented.
"Obviously, it's frustrating," Crosby said.
"You always want to score. It's the nature of the playoffs. You're not going to get a lot of chances, but, when you do get them, you have to make sure you put them in. As far as strategy goes, I think it just comes down to execution. You just need to make sure when you get those chances, you bury them. That's really what it comes down to. We just need to make sure we put the puck in the net."
It's no fun
The Red Wings have frustrated the Penguins by keeping the puck away from their playmakers. They have done this by making precise passes out of their zone, preventing the Penguins from creating turnovers via their forechecking.
"We haven't had the puck enough," veteran winger Gary Roberts said. "That's a credit to the way they've played. They've played exceptionally well against us defensively and not giving us very much up the middle. We have to get pucks to the outside and find a way to get more scoring chances."
Roberts said the style and execution of the Red Wings can have a demoralizing effect on players when things don't go well.
"It's not a lot of fun," he said. "You feel like you're chasing the puck all game. You use up so much energy trying to find the puck, and, by the time you get it, you're exhausted."
The Penguins are encouraging fans to wear white to Games 3 and 4 tonight and Saturday. White T-shirts and towels will be distributed at the door. ... For those who do not have a ticket to the game, the Penguins will show the NBC broadcast on a big screen outside Gate 3. ... Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Petr Sykora, Marian Hossa, Sergei Gonchar, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury did not participate in the optional practice. ...Crosby took the ice with backup goalie Ty Conklin for about 20 minutes before practice to work on some individual drills.
Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230.