NHL Playoffs: Penguins 4, Red Wings 2
By Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH ó The Stanley Cup finals won’t duplicate last year’s, and a momentum-swinging period by the Pittsburgh Penguins put in doubt whether there will be a repeat champion.
Jordan Staal’s short-handed goal during back-to-back Detroit power plays started Pittsburgh’s comeback, and the Penguins scored three goals in less than 6 minutes of the second period Thursday night to win 4-2 and tie the series at 2.
Evgeni Malkin, enjoying the best postseason since Wayne Gretzky’s in 1993, and Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist each to help rally the Penguins from a 2-1 deficit a year to the day Detroit raised the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh by winning Game 6.
Tyler Kennedy also scored and Marc-Andre Fleury, with his second successive excellent game, made 37 saves.
Until Game 4, the finals followed the same pattern as last year’s: Detroit won the first two at home, then dropped Game 3 in Pittsburgh. But the Red Wings couldn’t follow up their 2-1 road victory in Game 4 of last year, one decided largely when they killed off a lengthy Pittsburgh 5-on-3 advantage, and now these finals are the best-of-three.
Game 5 is Saturday night in Detroit, with Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday after the series’ first two-day break.
“It’s a race to four (wins) now,” Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis said.
The Red Wings were done in by a bad second period and dreadful special teams. Pittsburgh has converted on 4 of 9 power plays, and this game swung when the Penguins got a goal ó and the Red Wings didn’t ó during 3:59 of continuous Detroit power-play time. Detroit was 0 for 4 with the man advantage.
With Detroit up 2-1 following goals by Darren Helm and Brad Stuart less than 3 minutes apart to end the first and start the second, Staal ó who had only two goals in 20 playoff games ó got loose after Max Talbot’s up-ice pass.
The 6-foot-4 Staal used his lengthy stride to thread defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski and beat Chris Osgood at 8:35 of the second. Staal had a record-tying seven short-handed goals as an 18-year-old rookie in 2006-07, but had only one since.
“Max made a great play … and I lowered my head and went for it,” Staal said.
Staal’s goal instantly changed a major opportunity by Detroit to seize control not only of the game but the series into a tie game, and the 17,132 jammed into a suddenly rocking Mellon Arena sensed how big the play might be. And they were right.
“That was a big momentum changer for us,” Talbot said. “The building was so loud, it gave us a lot of emotion.”
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said, “They have a chance to go up 3-1, but Jordan speeds up ice … and kind of got us rolling.”
The Penguins finished off killing the second power play and, less than a minute later, Crosby and Malkin ó their signature stars ó worked a 2-on-1 rush for Crosby’s 15th of the playoffs and 30th point. With 35 points, Malkin has more than any player since Gretzky had 40 in 1993.
Kennedy, a Staal linemate who had no goals in five games, finished it off with Pittsburgh’s third goal in a span of 5:37 by scoring off two quick passes by Crosby and Chris Kunitz.