Red Wings' Locker room: Power play puts Detroit in a bind
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It took the Penguins two games and change (124 minutes and 48 seconds, to be exact) to score their first three goals of this Stanley Cup final against Detroit. The Red Wings are the defending Stanley Cup champions for many reasons, with no facet of their game more important than their trademark suffocating defense.
Last night in Game 4 at the Mellon Arena, the Penguins scored three goals in 5:37, a stunning outburst that turned a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead and vaulted the Penguins back into the series.
With the series shifting back to Detroit for Game 5 tomorrow night at Joe Louis Arena, it now is a best of three series after the Penguins beat the Red Wings, 4-2, and evened the series at two games.
The most stunning aspect of the onslaught was not the rapidity of the goals, but the manner in which they came. After three games where space was precious, there was room galore, and the Penguins took full advantage of Detroit's defensive breakdowns.
The first came when on the penalty kill when Jordan Staal powered past defenseman Brian Rafalski and beat goaltender Chris Osgood to tie the score. The second came on a 2-on-1 when Sidney Crosby buried a pass from Evgeni Malkin. And the third came on a pretty 3-on-2, a tic-tac-toe play from Chris Kunitz to Crosby to Tyler Kennedy.
The usually water-proof foundation of the Red Wings was leaking all over the place.
"When you give them odd-man chances, they're going to get goals out of it," Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "It's tough to pinpoint what happened on those. We were pinching way too much. We were stepping up at the wrong time. We had some bad timing on some of those goals."
The most galling aspect of the loss for the Red Wings was that they believe they threw away a golden opportunity to bury the Penguins and take a 3-1 lead back to Detroit.
The Red Wings led, 2-1, after scoring the go-ahead goal 46 seconds into the second period. They had the opportunity to take a two-goal lead with a 5-on-3 advantage for two seconds and a faceoff in the Penguins' end.
The Red Wings won the draw and controlled the puck for a short while, but the Penguins cleared the zone, and, 50 seconds later, Staal changed the momentum of the game -- and perhaps the series -- with a backbreaking shorthanded goal that tied the score.
"I thought we had a chance to get another one there, and they got one instead," Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said.
For the first time in the series, the Penguins' speed gave Detroit's defense problems. After outshooting the Penguins, 19-11, in the first period, Detroit watched the Penguins control play in the final two periods, getting the better of the scoring chances against the Red Wings, who looked tired at times.
The game last night was the fourth in six days, and Game 5 will be played tomorrow after only one day's rest.
"They came with speed tonight," Ericsson said. "They're good players. It's hard to stop them when they come with full speed with the skill they have."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said the difference in the game was his team's power play. The Red Wings were 0 for 4 with the man-advantage. In addition to giving up the momentum-changing shorthanded goal to Staal, it did not generate many quality scoring chances.
"I thought our power play sucked the life out of us tonight," Babcock said.
"Then, we turned the puck over in the next five minutes enough for a whole game. And two of them were critical. Obviously, that ended up costing us. Tonight, they had more energy than us."
Now the Red Wings return home with one day to figure out a way to slow down the hard-charging Penguins.
"We haven't played as good as we can in these first four games," Osgood said.
"We have to refocus. We're not going to panic. We're playing a good team. They're a really good team. And so are we. Both teams have good players, and that's what you're seeing out there."
First Published June 5, 2009 12:56 am