PITTSBURGH -- The Red Wings will fly back to Detroit with a commanding 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup finals after a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Penguins in a very hostile Mellon Arena on Saturday.
Center Jiri Hudler scored 2:26 into the third period to give Detroit its only lead in the two Cup games in the Steel City, and goalie Chris Osgood won his 13th game of the postseason, making 22 saves in the process.
The win puts the Red Wings in a position to clinch its fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years at Joe Louis Arena on Monday at 8 p.m. EDT.
Since 1939, there have been 29 teams to hold a 3-1 series lead in Stanley Cup finals history, and 28 of them have won the Cup. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team to buck the trend, winning three straight against Red Wings in 1942.
“We know as a team we haven't won anything yet,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We won three games. We have to win four to win the Stanley Cup.”
The Pens’ loss was their first defeat at home since Feb. 24. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s home winning streak of 19 games, which began before Thanksgiving, was also snapped on Saturday.
The Detroit win came in large part to their job on the penalty kill. After allowing a goal on the Penguins’ first power play, the Wings’ defense clamped down, and kept the Penguins scoreless. At the midway point of the third, the Red Wings killed off a crucial 5-on-3 for 87-seconds, which preserved their victory.
“I thought we tried to be a little more aggressive, even up ice, if we could put pressure on the puck here a little bit more,” Lidstrom said. “Once they came into our zone, if they weren't really set up, we tried to put more pressure on them, be more aggressive, and not sit back and give them the passing lanes.”
Pittsburgh forward Marian Hossa who might have had his best game of the series Saturday, opened the scoring for the Pens three minutes into the game.
Dallas Drake gave the Penguins an early power play - the one thing the Red Wings didn’t want the hometown team to have. The Red Wings’ veteran was called for roughing two minutes into the game when he hit defenseman Ryan Whitney from behind.
The Penguins took advantage of the opportunity, with Hossa pocketing his 10th postseason goal. Crosby brought the puck across the Detroit blue line, put on the brakes, and slid the puck cross-ice to Sergei Gonchar, who fired the puck on Osgood. The Detroit goalie made the initial save, but Hossa corralled the rebound and shoved the puck in from just above the goal line at the right post.
Lidstrom responded for the Red Wings, notching his third goal of the playoffs at the end of a power play. His slap shot deflected off left winger Ryan Malone and past Fleury, who was screened on the play.
The Penguins had two more power play opportunities in the first. However, Osgood stood tall, finishing the first period with eight saves.
“They’ve had one of the best PKs in the regular-season, so as much as you want to point fingers at our guys, they gotta give them credit for what they’re doing,” said Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. “Osgood’s seeing the puck pretty well … those guys do a great job of taking care of guys’ sticks and second chances.”
The Red Wings struck early in the third after a scoreless second period. Following a Pittsburgh turnover, Brad Stuart chipped the puck in to Hudler, who managed to sneak a backhand shot through Fleury. Hudler’s goal was his fifth of the playoffs, and second game-winner.
Hudler said he was surprised to find the puck coming towards him, and that he barely knew where the net was.
“I just turned around and tried to put it on the net,” he said. “I tried to go short side and obviously, I’m glad it went in.”
Osgood and the Wings capped off the night by killing off the all-important 5-on-3 midway through the third. With Kirk Maltby and Andreas Lilja serving penalties, Henrik Zetterberg led the charge on the PK, having the best scoring chance in the 1:27 on a small rush where he slammed on the breaks and sent a shot towards Fleury. The Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin missed the net twice, and then the power play had trouble even entering the Detroit zone.
“That was the one thing we wanted to do a little better today,” Zetterberg said. “We want to have a little bit more poise in our own end. We want to make some good decisions down there. I think we did. They got opportunity to tie up the game with the five on three in the end there.”
Pittsburgh failed to generate a single shot during the two-man advantage.
“We missed the net a few times,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “And there was a couple pucks laying on the crease we just didn't put in. I think if we went back, we'd try to hit the net and generate more from that. But we got set up there for a while, and just couldn't put it in.”
Penguins coach Michel Therrien said during his post-game press conference that his team will take it one game at a time for the rest of the series. And Crosby reiterated his coach’s statement.
“We have to win one,” Crosby said. “We have to win one to get back. So that's the way we're thinking, and they scored two tonight. We scored one. So I don't think they're running away with it. I don't think we're playing catch-up either. So we'll battle them in Detroit and see what happens.”
1 - 0 PIT
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DET