PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby was shut out in the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals in Detroit. So were the Penguins, but on Wednesday they were back home, where they were 8-0 in these playoffs and had posted 16 straight wins, going back to a shootout loss to San Jose on Feb. 24.
Make it 9-0 and 17 straight.
Crosby paced the Pens with goals in each of the first two periods, en route to Pittsburgh’s first win of the series, 3-2, at a raucous Mellon Arena. His two points ties him with Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg for the league lead in playoff points with 23.
“It just finally went in for us,” Crosby said. “I mean, we would hit posts and didn't have bounces that came on our stick near the net. And finally had one go in. And it felt good to get one in, to get the first one and get momentum and start off the game.”
Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson scored for the Red Wings and goalie Chris Osgood, who blanked the Pens through the first 137-plus minutes of the series, stopped 21 shots.
Former Michigan State standout Adam Hall capped off the night for the Penguins, scoring the eventual game-winner with seven minutes remaining.
“It definitely feels pretty good sitting in here, having a win in the Stanley Cup finals under our belts,” Hall said. “But it’s still going to be a long series, so we’ll enjoy this right now but start looking at the next game.”
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury appeared to have returned to his old playoff self, stopping 32 shots and helping the Penguins kill four of five penalties.
“Marc-Andre, he’s one of the reasons why we’re here,” Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. “And he’s one of the reasons why we won tonight. He made some key saves. I like his composure. He makes fabulous saves tonight when the game was tied.”
The Red Wings seemed to have the momentum early, but penalties kept them from generating much offense early in Game 3. With Franzen in the box a minute into the game for holding, it seemed to send a message that the Penguins’ cries for obstruction calls may have been heard. However, Jordan Staal was whistled for the same penalty immediately after the Penguins power play ended.
Crosby finally found a way to beat Osgood, giving a desperate Pittsburgh team a lead with three minutes remaining in the opening period.
After defenseman Brad Stuart turned over the puck deep in the Wings’ zone, Crosby found the puck just inside the blue line, and dropped a pass to Marian Hossa, whose shot was blocked, but Crosby cut through to grab the rebound and slapped it through Osgood.
“We approach it like a challenge,” Therrien said, “and there’s no doubt that we’re looking for your best player to bring an A-game. And certainly Sid did that tonight.”
At one point during the first, Detroit was leading 9-1 in the shot category, but Pittsburgh finished the period on a frenzied blitz, firing five consecutive shots, including Crosby’s goal.
“I think tonight we got off to a pretty good start on the road,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we were under control. Then I thought they had a pretty good push after a timeout, scored a goal. And I thought they controlled the next, I don’t know, 20 minutes of the game.”
The Pens struck early in the second, this time on a power play, and they didn’t waste much time, increasing their lead to 2-0 with Crosby’s second goal of the game another rebound off of a Hossa shot.
Franzen answered for the Red Wings, scoring his 13th postseason goal to regain the NHL lead. On a power play, the Mule picked up the puck outside the Pittsburgh zone and charged. After a few moves he was able to work it past Fleury.
With the Wings trailing by a goal in the third, they went on a huge offensive, out-shooting the Pens, 16-5, in the period. But even with a stretch of 5-6 minutes where the action was furious and physical without a stoppage, the Wings couldn’t solve Fleury.
Unfortunately, the Wings couldn’t get the equalizing goal before Hall stretched the Pens lead to two again.
After Kirk Maltby and Gary Roberts exchanged huge hits in opposite corners, Hall ended up with the puck on his stick, and Osgood out of the net on his knees. As Osgood tried to get back in position, Hall gathered in the puck behind the net and banked it off the back of Osgood and into the goal.
Samuelsson responded for the Red Wings with 6 ½ minutes to go. With a face off deep in the Pens’ zone, Stuart got the puck back to Samuelsson, who fired a wrist shot from the side boards. The shot seemed to skip off the stick of Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik, and over Fleury’s shoulder.
The Red Wings had one last ditch chance when Evgeni Malkin was called for hooking Niklas Kronwall with little more than four-minutes to go. Even with a pile-up in front of Fleury, he kept the puck out, killing the Wings best chance to tie the game and grab a commanding 3-0 series lead.
“When they got the third, it made it harder for us, for sure,” Babcock said. “No question. It was one of those goals where we had the puck. We should have had the puck out. We should have made a play. And we didn’t.”
When asked what it means to win the first Stanley Cup finals game of his young and promising career, Crosby was quick to point out that they haven’t won anything yet.
“It feels good,” Crosby said. “I mean, we definitely earned it. But at the same time, it’s one. And you don’t want to take anything away from it. We realize how hard it was and how tough it’s going to get. So it feels good to come out of this game on the other side, for sure. But we realize it’s only one.”
Game 4 is Saturday at Mellon Arena, beginning at 8 p.m. EDT.
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