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Game 4: All square, or into the abyss

Thursday, 06.04.2009 / 9:00 AM / 2009 Stanley Cup Final: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

"We know how big this Game 4 is now. Because we lost it last year, and it was hard to come back from a 3-1 deficit. This year we're just a little bit more aware."
-- Max Talbot

PITTSBURGH -- If you're the Pittsburgh Penguins, the absolute last thing you want to hear about Thursday night is the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

Any reference to those Leafs, the ones who rebounded from a huge deficit to win the Stanley Cup, means Game 4 against the Detroit Red Wings hasn't gone your way.

"We know how big this Game 4 is now," Pens winger Max Talbot said. "Because we lost it last year, and it was hard to come back from a 3-1 deficit. This year we're just a little bit more aware. We know we need to win this game. We know we need to be patient in the third period. We give them three shots (in Game 3). We created some more chances."

The easiest way to avoid the 3-1 hole and lots of Leafs talk? Keep on keeping on as the Pens did in Game 3 -- playing hard, converting on the power play and getting strong goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury.

"I think we're a lot happier with the way we've played," Sidney Crosby said. "You know, last year (the) first two games I look back on those and we weren't happy at all. We knew we had a lot of work to do. We hadn't found our game yet.

But I feel like at this point we know what it takes. We know what makes us successful, and we've been pretty consistent at doing that with exception to the second period in the last game."

Bill Guerin agrees.

"I think we've established the way that we know we have to play," Guerin said. "You know, I'm sure there's a big transition. I think I got here three weeks after Dan (Bylsma) took the job over, and there was still kind of, you know, the question of how we were going to play.

"I think over the course of time we realized what makes us successful and what doesn't. And I think that's probably the biggest thing is that we can always rely on our system and get back to that if things aren't going our way. I think (Game 3) was pretty evident that the second period wasn't the way we wanted to play. We got away from our game. But came back in the third and we were able to get right back into it. So I think that's probably the biggest thing."

"All of us knew, you know, the power play is one of the most important things going into this series and it's why I think we have a chance to, you know, score on those chances because we're all prepared and we'll work on it," Penguins Game 3 hero Sergei Gonchar said.

But typing that was a heck of a lot easier than the task awaiting each team Thursday (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS). The Red Wings are the defending champs and ice a deep, resilient team, one that wasn't especially panicked after dropping Game 3, 4-2. The Penguins finally got a couple breaks to go their way to get the win, but not by a margin that inspires overwhelming confidence.

"At times I thought we were taking the game over, especially late in the second period, I thought we were taking it over," Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "But you still have momentum swings back and forth, you know. The power play worked well for them (in Game 3). They generated a lot of chances and scored a couple of goals on it, too.

"We have to regroup and come back with a strong effort on Thursday. But we had some good moments in (Game 3), but I thought that our special teams was the difference. Their power play really worked well for them."

For Detroit, there is the possibility that Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsuyk may be back in the lineup for his first appearance in the Final. That will be a big boost for the Red Wings.

"Obviously, he's a great player and he'll bring a lot of offense to their club," Gonchar said. "Also, he's working hard on defense, so I'm sure it's going to give him a boost of energy, and he's going to help them."

Be that as it may, Game 4 is a crucial turning point in this Final. The Pens win and it's tied after four and becomes a best-of-3 with the Wings holding home ice.

The Wings win, and the Cup and the champagne are stowed away at Joe Louis Arena Saturday night.

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final Gear"We know if we play our game, and we play in their zone being patient, we know Game 4 we can have it," Talbot said. "And it's a turning point of the series. Being down 3-1, and going 2-2. So from the experience of last year, I think we feel it's different, and we're up to the challenge a little bit more than in last year. "

The Penguins were in a similar position last year, dropped to 3-1, spoiled the celebration in Game 4, but succumbed in Game 6. What's the difference this year?

"I think our confidence level," Talbot said. "The way the two first games were played. Last year, coming back home, yes, we won Game 3. But I remember coming back home where we're not as confident. They dominated us. They shut us down the first two games, Detroit. This year I felt like we competed way better. We had chances to win both games. We come back, we won Game 3 like last year."

Contact Phil Coffey at pcoffey@nhl.com


Quote of the Day

With this being the last year [at the Coliseum], we'd love to try to get back to the dance like we did against Pittsburgh and prove ourselves and go even further. It's an important year.

— New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano