Sidney Crosby delivered a victory in Game 3, but can he and his teammates do it again in three of a possible four opportunities left in this NHL season?
I don't think so. The Red Wings suffered their first loss of the Stanley Cup final against the Penguins last night, dropping a 3-2 decision at Mellon Arena before a sellout crowd decked out in white.
One of the Penguins' goals came off a bad play by Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart, but, hey, playoff goals are all about converting an opponent's mistakes. The second Penguins goal came on a power play and was answered by Johan Franzen on a Detroit power play, when Franzen looked like Big Brown as he powered his way to the net and sent the puck across the finish line.
That left the score, 2-1, after two periods and set up a hugely entertaining and lively third period. Pascal Dupuis, still looking for a point in this series, nearly got it early in the third, but just before the puck inched across the goal line, Chris Osgood reached back and gloved it. He had no such move ready minutes later, when Adam Hall hit the side of the net with the puck, retrieved it behind the net and fired it ahead, hitting Osgood in the posterior and sending the puck into the net.
The Red Wings, though, continued to steamroll through the Penguins' defense, getting chance after chance. Franzen, in what was only his second game back since missing six with concussion-like symptoms, had several good chances, and Jiri Hudler buzzed relentlessly with the puck. The Red Wings' attacks yielded another goal at 13:37 when Mikael Samuelsson scored his third goal in three games.
A monumentally stupid play by Evgeni Malkin, who seems determined to reach a new bottom each game, gave the Red Wings a power play with under five minutes to play, when he blatantly hooked Niklas Kronwall. The Penguins, backed by a superhuman effort by Marc-Andre Fleury, barely clung to their victory as the minutes wound down.
The Red Wings certainly didn't look intimidated about playing in Mellon Arena, where the Penguins had built a 16-game winning streak. Detroit came out with a strong effort at both ends of the ice. Other than a Ryan Malone attempt on an early power play, Osgood didn't see another shot until past the halfway point of the period, with the Red Wings running up a 6-1 shot advantage.
Osgood's shutout streak ended at 154:58, when Marian Hossa blocked Stuart's attempt to pass the puck to Henrik Zetterberg and instead sent the puck to Crosby, who drove to the net and scored his and the Penguins' first goal of the series. The Penguins doubled up at 2:34 of the second when Crosby banked a second goal, popping one in from the side of the net after Osgood had kicked away Hossa's shot.
That goal energized the Penguins to the point they controlled the game the next several shifts, but the Red Wings, as we've seen so often, regrouped, bore down, and scored. Franzen, taking a pass from Nicklas Lidstrom, utterly owned Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi, weaving the puck around him and taking the puck hard to the net to score No. 13 of the playoffs. The goal came during one of two power plays the Red Wings got in the second, both thanks to Hal Gill's inability to battle with Tomas Holmstrom in front of the Penguins' net without cross-checking him.
So, this series has been extended to at least five games. The Penguins played their best game of the series last night, but it wasn't like they dominated Detroit. I just don't see the Red Wings blowing four more chances to win the Stanley Cup.
Helene St. James writes for the Detroit Free Press.