For Penguins, it was only one loss, but ...
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DETROIT -- The good news? Even though the Penguins played horrendously and showed a frightening and despicable lack of discipline in their 5-0 Game 5 loss to the Detroit Red Wings last night, it counts as only one defeat. Sure, it was so ridiculously easy and lopsided for the Red Wings that, by rights, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman probably should have gone right ahead and handed them the Stanley Cup in front of their throbbing, sea-of-red crowd at Joe Louis Arena. They deserved it. But, thankfully for your Penguins, that is not the way it works in a best-of-seven series. Detroit still needs one more victory. The Penguins live to play Game 6 Tuesday night at Mellon Arena.
And the bad news?
Oh my, where do I start?
How about with special teams? They were so decidedly in the Penguins' favor in their 4-2 victories in Games 3 and 4 but were an absolute train wreck for the Pittsburgh hockey club last night. It failed to score on a power-play chance early in a scoreless game when it could have kept the momentum rolling and silenced the big crowd. It didn't even get a shot on goal, actually. The Red Wings, on the other hand, cashed in for not one, not two, but three man-advantage goals. Yikes.
"It was pretty obvious what happened," Penguins winger Bill Guerin said. "Their power play was on and we kept going to the box. Penalties were definitely an issue for us."
So was goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury, who was so splendid in the Penguins' two wins, fished out five pucks from his net in the first 36 minutes before getting mercifully yanked, presumably to give him more time before Game 6 to recover from the shock of this embarrassment. After Detroit center Henrik Zetterberg beat Fleury for the fifth goal, you almost could hear Red Wings fans murmuring, "Fellas, could you please save a few for the next game?"
"Flower will bounce back from this and be himself in Game 6," Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "He always bounces back."
Fleury isn't the only one who needs to regroup.
It almost seems comical now that some of the Penguins believed the Red Wings were in a state of disarray in Game 4. There was only team in disarray last night, and it wasn't Detroit. Shamefully, the Penguins lost their cool to the point that they took 12 penalties, including three by Evgeni Malkin and 10-minute misconducts by Craig Adams, Max Talbot and Matt Cooke.
For a minute there, I thought I was watching the cheap-shot Philadelphia Flyers.
"You're going to have emotions in a situation where you're not getting a result," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Maybe, but I wonder what Bylsma would have said if a Detroit player had slashed, say, Sidney Crosby the way Talbot slashed Detroit star Pavel Datsyuk at the end of the second period.
Hockey people are so hypocritical.
Certainly, the older, wiser Red Wings were the much more composed team and didn't appear to be the least bit tired, as many of the Penguins had suggested after Game 4. That fatigue factor could work against Detroit in Game 6, though. Celebrating all of those goals last night could tucker out just about anyone.
But the worst news by far is that, if the Penguins are to win the Cup, they have to take not only Game 6 but come back here and nab Game 7 Friday night in a building where they have so much trouble scoring goals. Really, it doesn't much matter how bad the special teams, goaltending and team discipline are if you can't put the puck in the net. You just can't win if you can't score.
The Penguins can't here.
Malkin and Crosby, who combined for two goals and six assists in Games 3 and 4, got nothing last night. Give a lot of the credit for that to brilliant two-way centers Zetterberg and Datsyuk. As expected, Datsyuk -- an NHL MVP candidate -- gave Detroit an enormous lift after missing the first four games because of a broken foot.
But the Penguins' scoring difficulties here didn't just start last night. In Games 1 and 2, they managed a goal each night. Going back to the Cup final last season, which the Red Wings won in six games, they were shut out at The Joe in Games 1 and 2, although, miracle of miracles, they found a way to win Game 5 in Detroit, 4-3 in three overtimes.
No such luck in this Game 5.
Not even close.
A lot of us -- not to mention the Penguins -- might not have expected this humiliating outcome, but Detroit coach Mike Babcock all but predicted it. "I'm a big believer in us," he said. "So they've won two games ... We'll be all right."
That was pretty much the same message that came from the Penguins' room last night. "We could have lost, 10-0, and it's still only worth one," Scuderi said. "Just because they beat us bad tonight doesn't mean they won the Stanley Cup."
True, so true.
As late, great Penguins coach Badger Bob Johnson used to say, "You can lose three games and still win the series."
I fully expect the Penguins to play a terrific game Tuesday night and win.
But then they would have to come back here for Game 7.
Good luck with that.
First Published June 7, 2009 12:00 am