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Bylsma to Pens, stay away from guys in red

Wednesday, 06.03.2009 / 4:37 PM / 2009 Stanley Cup Final: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh

By Larry Wigge - NHL.com Columnist

PITTSBURGH -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has that snap-shot, paint-a-picture visual aid way of getting his points to his players, especially in a match-game type of competitive situation against the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

The Penguins feel they have had the edge in a lot of different areas through the first three games, yet they trail the Wings 2-1 in the series.

What it comes down to is the veteran and experienced discipline of Detroit vs. the "I've-got-to-keep-reminding-the-kids" situation Bylsma has with a young roster.

"If you take a still photo of us getting to the red line and blue line in at most times, you're going to see four Red Wings around the puck," he explained. "If you think that you're going to create an offensive opportunity out of that situation, then you're probably better off going to Vegas and betting there."

Unfortunately, it's not a real good bet.

"They're back. They have great sticks, and they do it over and over again. So we needed to make better decisions with the puck, puck management. We need to force those four guys to turn and go back and get that puck. We need to do a better job of recognizing those situations and supporting the puck so we can get it behind their 'D' and get to the offensive zone.

"It's not going to happen very often on the rush against these guys. And we need to recognize those situations better."

Remember, it's a still photo of four Wings on the puck. So you dump it in and hope to use your speed and their movement to create an odd-man break on the puck in order to tie up this series in Game 4 Thursday night.

It's the hits, man -- It's the good hits that keep the Mo in Motown, if you know what I mean.

Throughout the playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings have rocked and rolled with an abundance of hits that have made opponents mad enough to retaliate and put Detroit on the power play.

The Wings ranked 23rd in the NHL with 1,480 hits -- or an average of 18 per game. In the playoffs, they had delivered 602 hits in the playoffs, an average of 33.4 per game.

But those judicious momentum-swinging hits were outdone by Pittsburgh in Game 3 when the Penguins outhit Detroit 36-17, including an incredible 11 by the Pens' Chris Kunitz.

And it turns out, a hit by Matt Cooke, who had five hits in the game, set up Jonathan Ericsson's interference penalty and Sergei Gonchar's subsequent go-ahead power-play goal 10:29 into the third period.

"To draw penalties, you just keep moving your feet," Cooke said. "Keep being a pest."

The most important part of the equation is that the Red Wings put the Penguins on the power play, which Detroit has been so good at avoiding for most of the playoffs. More telling, Detroit has allowed at least one power-play goal in 15 of 19 playoff games, including a franchise-high 13 straight at one point.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock bristled when he was asked about Detroit's penalty-killing percentage, saying, "It's not the percentage, it's when you give them up. You know, that's huge. Last night we needed a kill. Without any question, it was a 2-2 game. We needed the kill. Our penalty kill hasn't been great all year long. We've had moments where it's been real good, but it hasn't been great. So the bottom line is we need it to be great. It was great against Anaheim in Game 7 when we needed it. It was real good against Chicago when we needed it. Last night we needed it, and it let us down."

Timely goals -- That was one of the main items on Penguins coach Dan Bylsma's checklist for Game 3 -- and you couldn't get any more timely than Sergei Gonchar's power-play tally that broke a 2-2 tie and set the Pens to a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings to cut the Red Wings series lead to 2-1.

"Yeah, timing was good," Gonchar said afterward. "Finally we get a win and the power play was good tonight. So we did a lot of good things we just have to continue."

Actually, Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood said Gonchar is the one guy he'd like to see his teammates neutralize a little better.

"We've got to take Gonchar away a little bit more," Osgood said. "He's kind of their main pivot point. I think we're giving him too much time up top. When he gets it, he's able to drag it. I compare him to Nick (Lidstrom), kind of. When you give him time to drag it, he's great at picking corners and putting the puck where he wants, but also great at dishing it off to the side."

Home ice advantage continues, but ... -- Facing a must-win situation after losing the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final on the road, that familiar old X-factor, home-ice advantage, once again worked in Game 3 for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pittsburgh's 4-2 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings made it the fourth straight Final series that Game 3 has gone to the team trailing 2-0 -- following the script started by the 2006 Edmonton Oilers, 2007 Ottawa Senators and last year's Penguins.

The fact of the matter is still this -- teams winning the first two games of the Final at home are 31-1. The only team to beat that trend is the 1971 Montreal Canadiens, who beat the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games.

Serging ahead -- Sergei Gonchar smiles at the challenge and competition of facing the Red Wings for the second-straight year.

"It's the same team, same club," he observed. "They beat us last year, and now we're up to the challenge again. So, I'm sure that's adding to it. It's probably one of the most competitive series that I've played."

A third linesman -- Some say Detroit winger Kirk Maltby talks too much on the ice. Osgood agrees, but ...

"He talks nonstop," Osgood said of the veteran who has been on all four of the Red Wings teams to win four Stanley Cups in 12 years. "I was actually mad at him last night. He's usually the third linesman out there. And he wasn't yelling hard enough at the too many men on the ice penalty (in the first period). He usually has those or makes the call before it even happens."

'Dats' enough -- Osgood said the Red Wings have been without star center Pavel Datsyuk long enough.

"To get Pav back is going to be key just to play big minutes against their top players. And he adds offense. He holds onto the puck great," Osgood said of Datsyuk's ability to contribute big plays on offense and on defense and give Henrik Zetterberg help in the matchup department against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. "Defensively in our own zone, him and Hank can play off each other great and give us that one-two punch that we need.

"To me we've played long enough without them. We've played five games in eight days without Pav, and to me, that's long enough. We've made it this far, but we don't want to take any more chances."


Quote of the Day

Because of the way they play and their skill set I don't think they're fourth-line players, so in my mind I'm looking at one of those guys I'll have to move over to the wing.

— Capitals coach Barry Trotz on his four-player battle for second-line center