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Home ice heats up Penguins in win over Red Wings

Thursday, May 29, 2008

By IRA PODELL

AP Hockey Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The Penguins are 0-for-The Joe but downright perfect at home.

After two shutout losses to the Red Wings in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, Sidney Crosby scored Pittsburgh's first two goals of the Stanley Cup finals and carried the Penguins to a 3-2 victory Wednesday night.

The Red Wings still lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 back in Pittsburgh on Saturday night. The finals then shifts back to Detroit for a now necessary fifth game.

The Penguins improved to 9-0 at home in the playoffs and have won 17 straight there, dating to a loss to San Jose on Feb. 24. Their previous game in front of the home crowd was a 6-0 blitz in the clinching Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia.

They were outscored 7-0 in Detroit.

"Whether it was me or anybody else, we just wanted to get the first one," Crosby said. "We wanted to get a goal, find a way. That was the mind-set going in, and it was nice to get it for sure."

Marc-Andre Fleury, who hasn't been beaten at home in 19 games, made 32 saves. He allowed Johan Franzen's power-play goal with 5:12 left in the second period that cut Pittsburgh's lead to 2-1 and Mikael Samuelsson's tally in the third that again got Detroit within one.

Chris Osgood stopped 21 shots, but fell to 6-1 in his career in the finals. He backstopped the Red Wings' championship round sweep of Washington in 1998, though it became clear this wouldn't be his night when Adam Hall banked a shot in off his skate from behind the net 7:18 into the third period.

"We didn't play as well as should have," Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski said. "We were playing well until they got that first goal, that gave them a lot of momentum and got the crowd into it. They took it from there."

The Red Wings led Nashville 2-0 in the first round, only to be tied through four games. Dallas forced a Game 6 in the Western finals after trailing 3-0. Might the Penguins be ready to stage the latest comeback?

"Look at it. We're one game away from tying up the Stanley Cup finals, after a lot of you guys counted us out," defenseman Ryan Whitney said.

Crosby had been bottled up by the Red Wings' top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom, but got free at times at home where the Penguins enjoyed the last change.

His first goal came with that Detroit trio on the ice, and the second was scored during a power play.

"His work ethic was there. He stuck to the plan," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "That's what you're looking for from your captain, show an example. Good players, when the challenge is there, they like to play those type of games."

Now Pittsburgh has a chance to equal the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, who dropped two shutout losses to start the 2003 finals in New Jersey before rebounding to get even with two wins at home.

The Penguins have Crosby, their 20-year-old captain, to thank for that. Their finals-long scoring drought ended after 137 minutes, 25 seconds with the help of a rare mistake by Detroit.

Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart held the puck behind the net for several moments as he waited for a forecheck to subside and sent a pass toward the left point that caromed off Zetterberg's skate to Marian Hossa.

He skated into the circle and attempted a shot that hit Stuart's skate and bounced to Crosby, who snapped a drive in off Osgood with 2:35 left in the first. It gave life to Pittsburgh, which had been outshot 9-4 in the period.

"It wasn't that the chances weren't there, it was just finally that it went in for us," Crosby said. "We would hit posts and didn't have bounces that came on our stick near the net. It felt good to get the first one and get momentum."

It was the first goal scored on Osgood in 154:58, a run that stretched back to Game 6 of the Western finals. The Red Wings suddenly found themselves behind, a position they have rarely been in during the playoffs.

Not only hadn't the Penguins found any results at even strength, they weren't even generating shots. It took until 15:06 had elapsed before a 5-on-5 drive got in on Osgood.

Crosby, who hadn't scored in five games, made it 2-0 at 2:34 of the second with his sixth playoff goal. Sergei Gonchar's shot found traffic in front and bounced to Ryan Malone, who also couldn't get the puck through.

Hossa put a shot off Osgood, and Crosby slammed in the rebound at the right post. He celebrated with a fist pump as he crouched near the end boards.

"I don't think I changed a whole lot," Crosby said. "I got some good bounces. I went to the same spots I typically would go to. The puck ended up on my stick."

That was the last of Pittsburgh's three power plays and snapped a 2-for-19 drought. The Penguins carried a 2-1 lead into the third period that featured many hard hits and very few whistles.

"They got to the puck a little quicker at times," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "They scored first, which helped them. I thought Crosby and Hossa were better. More energy and controlled more plays."

Despite Therrien's complaints for two days that Detroit was getting away with obstruction at home, the Red Wings took only three penalties and were given five power plays.

Osgood had a nervous moment in the first few minutes of the final frame when Hossa sent a shot off the post, and Pascal Dupuis followed with a drive that slid toward the goal line before Osgood stopped it just in time.

His good luck ran out soon after.

Gary Roberts played a physical shift that created a chance for Hall, who put a puck onto the outside of the net and worked it free. After Osgood failed to clear it from danger with an empty swipe of his stick, Hall smacked a shot that hit Osgood leg and found its way in.

"They're very dangerous," said Red Wings forward Kris Draper, who flipped Crosby with a big second-period hit. "If you give them second and third opportunities, they're going to make us pay."

Fleury's frightening moment was yet to come. With the Red Wings pressing to get back in it, Holmstrom banged a drive off the post with 11:43 left in the period.

It didn't take long for Detroit to put the heat back on. Samuelsson, who scored twice in Detroit's 4-0 series-opening win, brought the Red Wings within a goal with 6:23 remaining.

The Red Wings had a chance to tie it when Evgeni Malkin took a tripping penalty with 4:18 remaining, but couldn't beat Fleury, who calmly covered a puck in traffic late in the advantage.

Franzen, in his second game back after missing six following a bout with recurring headaches, netted his NHL-leading 13th goal of the playoffs with 5:12 remaining in the second.

Notes:

Penguins D Darryl Sydor, a two-time Cup winner, played for the first time since March 30. He replaced rookie Kris Letang. ... Detroit, the champions in 1997, 1998 and 2002, had won 14 of its previous 15 games in the finals.



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