DETROIT — One neutral zone giveaway. One errant pass from the crease.
Two critical Pittsburgh mistakes — and two unassisted Mikael Samuelsson goals.
Samuelsson — the b-list second-liner in a series of superstars — put the Red Wings up 2-0 just over two minutes into the third period, and Detroit rolled from there to a 4-0 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
“The feeling, it was great for sure. I love to score goals, obviously,” Samuelsson joked.
Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary scored late, adding insult in a game that Detroit dominated after the first period. Over the final 40 minutes, Pittsburgh had just seven shots on Red Wings goalie Chris
Osgood, who picked up his second postseason shutout.
“I don’t know if it was nerves,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “But definitely that was the worst performance of the playoffs. We didn’t compete like were supposed to compete.
“And it’s a good lesson.”
The Penguins — whether the blanking was due to youth, nerves or just a bad night — are behind in a series for the first time in the postseason. The Red Wings are now just three wins away from their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years.
After Pittsburgh was unable to capitalize on four power plays in the first period, Detroit seemed to pick up momentum in the middle frame.
With the Penguins heading for a line change, defenseman Jarkko Ruutu cleared the puck out of the Penguins' zone — but right to Samuelsson waiting at the red line. Samuelsson took the puck all the way down behind the Pittsburgh net for a wraparound that beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s skate to the post at 13:01 of the second period.
“Before we scored the first goal, we had about four shifts in a row where we finally got the tempo up,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we were nervous early. I didn’t think we executed early. I
thought once we got the tempo up and got skating that things went out way better.”
Even at 2:16 of the third period, when Samuelsson tallied his second of the night.
After Detroit pressured in the zone, Fleury tried to clear but hit Evgeni Malkin, who spent a few seconds stickhandling before making a decision — just enough time for Samuelsson to steal the puck.
Samuelsson slapped it past Fleury before he could get in position.
“Those are mental mistakes against a team like the Red Wings — you can’t do those type of mistakes,” Therrien said.
Fleury — who elicited boos from the Joe Louis Arena crowd when he tripped running onto the ice to start the game — faced 36 shots.
He got caught going to play the puck behind the net on Cleary’s goal. Fleury hesitated, and Cleary’s shot beat him racing back to the net. Zetterberg beat Fleury cleanly, glove side, with just 13 seconds
left in the contest.
“This is called adversity,” Penguins forward Maxime Talbot said. “And it’s going to be a long series. And we definitely are going to make it a long series.”
GAME NOTES: Samuelsson had just two goals in the playoffs entering the game. He played 22 games for the Penguins before he was traded to Florida in 2003. He signed as a free agent with the Wings in 2005. …
Pittsburgh’s Gary Roberts and Darryl Sydor, as well as Detroit’s Chris Chelios were healthy scratches. Johan Franzen (headaches) missed his sixth game, but saw doctors Saturday for more testing. … The Red Wings improved to 8-1 at home, while the Penguins dropped to 4-3 on the road in the playoffs. Detroit improved to 11-1 when scoring first.
1 - 0 DET
2 - 0 DET
3 - 0 DET
4 - 0 DET
Interference - Goalkeeper