Red Wings smash notion of tired, beaten team
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DETROIT -- If that was the tired, frustrated, confused, despondent, bickering Detroit Red Wings who bird-slapped the Penguins up and down the pond here last night, one shudders to imagine the carnage should they actually get their groove back.
What then, 10-0?
Scoring three power-play goals against the disintegrating Penguins in the second period alone, the defending Stanley Cup Champions turned Game 5 into a ice-sculptured monument to themselves and reconnected with their obvious intentions, which are merely to put a 12th championship into their glorious history sometime this week.
Not bad for your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to skate free after losing twice in Pittsburgh, the second time prompting Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik to diagnose an acute disillusionment among the Red army.
"Once we made it 3-2 and especially 4-2, they started talking a lot more [and] I thought that played right into our hands," Orpik said in the Penguins' dressing room after Game 4. "If they want to waste that energy, that's fine with us."
That would be misdiagnosis, but the real malpractice had to wait until last night, when the Penguins played what looked suspiciously like one of the worst periods in the history of the franchise, turning a one-goal deficit into a five-alarm fire that saw Marc-Andre Fleury saved from the conflagration in mid-event by fireman Dan Bylsma.
"You're going to have emotions in a game when you're not getting a result and the other team is filling up the net on you," Bylsma said of the emotional meltdown that was that second period. "We were trying to play physical and kind of started running around and got off the page. We certainly tried to regroup and get back to staying on the same page, but emotions come to the surface in hockey, and they forced us into a situation where we were frustrated and they had a big lead with their crowd going at home. I wasn't surprised at how we reacted and tried to play physical. That's not the first time that's happened in hockey."
The fourth Detroit goal, the one that resulted directly from Orpik's inability to dislodge Tomas Holmstrom from the ice in front of Fleury, might not have seemed any more significant than the rest, but the reality was the Red Wings organ-I-zation came into Game 5 of the finals having won 48 consecutive playoff games in which they scored four goals or more.
The Penguins can remember this as (ancient cultural reference alert!) Funk 49.
Soon after Fleury exited for the dubious preservation of his confidence for Game 6 (it's a little frightening when the Red Wings are shooting a better percentage than the Detroit Pistons), the Penguins lost not only a game but their poise.
Late in the period that would send them to the dressing room down 5-0, Sidney Crosby, the Captain, stunned Henrik Zetterberg with a vicious slash right from the Gary Roberts School of Cheap Shot Playoff Etiquette. Max Talbot's whack on the foot of Pavel Datsyuk, the one that kept him out of the last seven games, wasn't exactly his proudest moment of the playoffs either.
"We need a more disciplined effort," said Penguins forward Bill Guerin. "Their power play hurt us tonight. It disrupted the flow of what we wanted to do."
So that Jordan Staal goal that maybe changed the momentum of the entire series the other night?
Back in the rink where they had won seven games in a row and 10 of 11 in these Stanley Cup playoffs, the Red Wings shook off a first-period blitz by the Penguins' forecheck and wound up dominating large swaths of the first 20 minutes, in which they erected an insurmountable, 1-0 lead.
Dan Cleary's goal at 13:32 went from above the left-wing circle, between the legs of Orpik, and into the Penguins' net without Fleury so much as getting a glove on it despite minimal visual obstruction. The more ominous signal for the Penguins figured to be the way Detroit functioned on the penalty kill, which looked plenty proficient with Niklas Kronwall off for tripping Chris Kunitz at 7:16 of the first.
By the end of the second period, it was Pittsburgh's penalty-killers who couldn't clear a fogged up windshield.
The Penguins killed the first penalty of the night on the power play that straddled the first and second periods, but the fact that Valtteri Filppula scored five seconds later scraped the luster of it. Detroit caught the Penguins in a shift change so shaggy it allowed Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood to get an assist by passing the puck more than half the lake to Marian Hossa, who got the primary assist when Filppula put a backhander between Fleury's feet to make it 2-0.
In the shocking 18-minute slasher film that followed, the Stanley Cup final went from being as dead-even a proposition as you could construct after four games (games were two each, goals were 10 each) to something with the feel of severe lopsidedness despite what a 3-2 Red Wings bulge represents.
You should hope, one imagines, that the Penguins are tired, frustrated, confused, despondent, confused, and bickering.
That seems to work beautifully.
First Published June 7, 2009 12:00 am