DETROIT -- Mikael Samuelsson? Sure, the Penguins were aware of him before last night.
So was anyone with a ridiculously detailed knowledge of Penguins history.
Those folks no doubt recalled that Samuelsson was one of four luminaries -- Rico Fata, Richard Lintner and Joel Bouchard were the others -- acquired with cash from the New York Rangers for Alex Kovalev and a handful of contracts the Penguins were looking to dump.
And that he later was packaged with the Penguins' first-round choice in the 2003 entry draft and sent to Florida for the No. 1 overall selection, which the Penguins spent on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
But while Samuelsson's arrival and departure were the high points of his time on the Penguins' payroll, he enlarged his footnote in franchise history considerably last night by scoring Detroit's first two goals in its 4-0 victory against the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final at Joe Louis Arena.
Samuelsson, who had failed to score in the previous six games, got the only goal the Red Wings needed when he picked off a Jarkko Ruutu clearing pass in the neutral zone, and carried the puck down the left side before going behind the net and beating Fleury on a wraparound at 13:01 of the second period.
"I couldn't really cut in front of the net, so I had to go behind," Samuelsson said. "I guess the goalie committed to me a little bit, so I took a chance to throw it at the net, and it went in."
So did his shot from the slot at 2:16 of the third, after Evgeni Malkin couldn't control Fleury's one-handed clearing attempt in the right circle. The puck bounced back toward the slot, where Samuelsson collected it and threw a shot past Fleury low on the stick side to make it 2-0.
Dan Cleary added a short-handed goal at 17:18, and Henrik Zetterberg scored on a power-play with 12.2 seconds left in regulation to close out the scoring and put the Penguins behind in a series for the first time this spring.
The Penguins came by the loss honestly. They were outshot, 36-19, and outhit, 31-25, and absorbed a lopsided beating on special teams. They were 0 for 5 on the power play and allowed a short-handed goal, while the Red Wings scored on one of six chances with the extra man.
"Definitely, that was the worst performance of the playoffs," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "We didn't compete like we were supposed to compete."
Game 2 of the final will be at 8:08 p.m. tomorrow at Joe Louis. The series will shift to Mellon Arena for Game 3 Wednesday and Game 4 Saturday.
"Our goal was to win one on the road," center Max Talbot said. "That's what we're going to try to do Monday."
The Penguins could enhance their chances of success considerably by launching a few more shots at goalie Chris Osgood. After facing 12 shots in the opening period, he had to stop only four in the second and three in the third.
Part of the reason the Penguins didn't shoot the puck much was that they spent much of the evening giving it away.
"We made them look good," forward Pascal Dupuis said. "We turned the puck over way too many times. That's going to kill us if we keep doing it."
Although Game 1 got off to an ominous turn for the Penguins -- Fleury tripped and fell to the ice as they were beginning to come onto the ice for the start of the game -- they had an edge in play in the first period. They failed to score, however, on three two-minute power plays and another that lasted 11 seconds.
That proved to be a lethal shortcoming.
Not that the margin of victory is particularly important.
"It's one game," Ruutu said. "It doesn't [matter] if you lose, 10-0, or if you lose in the fourth overtime, 4-3."
He added that, "we made a few mistakes, and they capitalized on them," but the Penguins shouldn't have been surprised that Detroit was opportunistic. What they shouldn't have expected was to be outworked the way they were for so much of the game.
"You can't allow this team to outwork us," Talbot said.
If it happens again in Game 2, the Penguins are in trouble. Precedent, though, suggests it won't.
"We lost one game," Therrien said. "We always bounce back."
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com . First Published May 25, 2008 4:00 AM