Red Wings: Samuelsson was big, strong
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DETROIT -- Red Wings winger Mikael Samuelsson isn't normally the hero type, but it seemed like he had plenty of incentive to want to make sure the Penguins remembered his name.
Samuelsson, 31, spent 22 mostly uneventful games with the Penguins in 2002-03 after being acquired in a February trade from the New York Rangers, collecting two goals with no assists. The Penguins then traded him to Florida so they could move up to the top spot in the 2003 draft and select goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
The same goaltender Samuelsson beat for the first two goals of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final last night at Joe Louis Arena.
Two goals that were unassisted and came on great individual efforts.
Two goals that were more than enough for Detroit in a 4-0 victory.
Two goals that came after he had no multi-goal games in the regular season.
Two goals that Samuelsson enjoyed -- "I love to score goals," he said -- but not plays that were born of any particular feelings toward the Penguins.
"I don't know what to say about that," Samuelsson said of his time with the Penguins. "It was a couple of years ago. I don't think much about it now. I'm happy to be in Detroit. I'll go from there, and play the best I can right now."
Samuelsson, who had 11 goals and 40 points in 73 games in the regular season, entered last night with two goals, nine points in 16 playoff games. His surely was not the first name that might have come up as likely to provide the Red Wings with the biggest offensive punches of the opening game of the series.
He probably wasn't even the second or fourth or sixth.
But Samuelsson capitalized on a couple mistakes by the Penguins as Detroit outplayed the visitors in the second and third periods.
Samuelsson first broke a scoreless spell at 13:01 of the second period.
Collecting the puck off a turnover in the neutral zone, he carried it into the Penguins' zone, down the left side and around defenseman Rob Scuderi, who along with partner Hal Gill was at or beyond their normal shift time.
From there, Samuelsson swooped behind the net and stuffed the puck past Fleury's left skate.
"They were out there, like, 30, 40 seconds," Samuelsson said. "I just took a shot at it. I couldn't really cut in front of the net, so I had to go behind. And I guess Fleury committed to me a little bit. So I took a chance to throw it at the net, and it went in."
It was an equally strong, if not stronger, effort that led to his second goal.
After crunching the hulking Gill into the end boards in the Penguins' end, Samuelsson scrambled out to the front of the net. When Penguins center Evgeni Malkin couldn't control the puck and turned it over, Samuelsson pounced on it to score from 15 feet at 2:16.
"I don't really know what happened," Samuelsson said. "I went through the forecheck and the puck kind of stayed at me. There were a couple guys there, but they didn't really catch or took the puck there, so I just took it and shot it to the net."
Daniel Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg added goals late in the third period, after it had become clear the Red Wings were the dominating team.
And long after Samuelsson had taken advantage of the turning tide.
"I thought he played big and strong," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said of Samuelsson. "He made a real good finish check on the second goal. Before we scored the first goal, we had about four shifts in a row where we finally got the tempo up."
Samuelsson's best NHL season came in 2005-06, his first after signing as a free agent with Detroit, when he had 23 goals, 22 assists.
He listed his career highlight as being on the Swedish Olympic team that won the gold medal at the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy. He had a goal and three assists in eight games in that tournament.
At least, that was what it was before last night.
First Published May 25, 2008 1:13 am