The last time we checked in on the Pittsburgh Penguins, they were winning an easy victory in game seven of their tough series against the Washington Capitals.
After that, the Penguins dispatched the Carolina Hurricanes in a four-game sweep.
Pittsburgh then lost the first two games of the finals (in which they are playing the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings). Then they won the next two games, making tonight’s game a pivotal match-up. Which team will seize the advantage, three games to two, and put the other team on the brink of elimination?
Pittsburgh has the momentum, but the Red Wings are a superior team on home ice. I’ll be shocked if the Red Wings don’t dominate Pittsburgh for long stretches this evening. Pittsburgh’s goaltender, Marc-André Fleury, will have to perform at the top of his game tonight.
But Detroit looked tired in game four — particularly Henrik Zetterberg, who has the unenviable task of shadowing Sidney Crosby and trying to keep him off the score sheet. Zetterberg was extremely effective during the two games in Detroit, but Crosby got a goal and an assist in game four (in Pittsburgh). Whichever player wins that game within the game tonight, it could determine which team is victorious.
• first 10 minutes of period 1
The first big shift of the night went to Malkin’s line. No goal, but the Red Wings were pinned in their own end for an extended period of time, and there were two good scoring chances. I’m surprised; I expected the home team to put Pittsburgh on the defensive early.
Play is intense, as you might have assumed. Fleury just made a fine save off an attempted tip-in. Then Detroit’s Kronwall took the first penalty of the game, in the neutral zone.
But Pittsburgh couldn’t muster any significant threats on the power play.
• last 10 minutes of period 1
And we have the first goal of the game. Detroit’s Dan Cleary got off a quick shot which flicked off a defenceman’s stick, between the defenceman’s feet, and past a surprised Fleury. 6:28 remains in the first period.
Pavel Datsyuk got an assist. He is just returning to the lineup after missing seven games with a foot injury.
Now we’re seeing the Red Wings we expected. Pittsburgh is back on their heels, fighting to prevent a second goal.
A couple of good chances at the end of the period; one at each end. Pittsburgh’s chance led to a questionable penalty — called against Pittsburgh. Kunitz gave Detroit’s goalie, Chris Osgoode, a slight bump, and he was called for goaltender interference. It looked to me like Osgoode embellished it because he saw a chance to fall backward and knock the net off its moorings (thus ending the play).
Regardless, Detroit will begin period 2 with a powerplay.
• first intermission
The main observation at this point is this: Detroit’s goal changed the tenor of the game.
Actually, there was a nice bit of symmetry with game three. Detroit was dominating game three until they had two consecutive, ineffectual power plays. It was Pittsburgh who scored, shorthanded. Detroit quickly gave up two more goals, and the outcome of the game was determined by those five minutes.
Likewise, Pittsburgh’s ineffectual powerplay was followed by a Detroit goal tonight. Pittsburgh dominated play prior to that point; Detroit dominated the rest of the period.
• first 10 minutes of period 2
Pittsburgh’s in deep trouble. The penalty had just expired when, at the 1:44 mark, Filppula scored for Detroit.
The play began when Osgoode got control of the puck and saw that the Penguins were changing “on the fly.” Osgoode passed the puck to Hossa, all the way down at the Pittsburgh blue line. Hossa made a sweet saucer pass to Filppula. Filppula protected the puck, pulled it aggressively to his right and, as Fleury was shifting across the front of the net, Filppula slipped the puck between his legs and in. Good plays by all three Red Wings; Osgoode earned an assist.
Another penalty on Pittsburgh. Another Detroit goal, by Kronwall. He carried the puck out from behind the Pittsburgh goal line. Three defenders stood by, seemingly mesmerized.
And now, another Pittsburgh penalty. And another Detroit goal. This time by Rafalski, through a screen by Holmstrom.
The game hasn’t reached the halfway mark, and it’s 4-0. Whenever I live-blog a game, it’s a rout!
• last 10 minutes of period 2
According to the CBC, Detroit scored those three goals in 6:44. It really is a mirror image of game three.
• second intermission
5-0 at the end of two periods.
• final thoughts
Remember the Zetterberg/Crosby matchup I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Zetterberg scored the Red Wings’ fifth goal, after an assist on an earlier goal. Crosby was a -2 on the night, meaning he was on the ice for two Detroit goals, and no Pittsburgh goals.
As for the goalies: Chris Osgoode earned a shutout, and Fleury was replaced by the Penguins’ backup goalie after Detroit’s fifth goal.
But never mind Crosby and Osgoode. When you get right down to it, there weren’t any Penguins who made a positive impression tonight.