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Datsyuk dazzles, with help from a friend

Sunday, 06.07.2009 / 12:23 AM / 2009 Stanley Cup Final: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

DETROIT -- There they were, side by side, putting on a show on Saturday night.

It was nothing new to the capacity crowd at Joe Louis Arena. They've seen Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg dominate like this so many times in the past, finding each other with chemistry that 29 other teams crave.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have seen it before, too, but they were hoping it wouldn't occur in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. Datsyuk hadn't even played in the first four games of the series, and Zetterberg ... he was supposed to be wearing down, wasn't he?

But with Datsyuk back in the Detroit Red Wings' lineup for the first time since May 19 and with Zetterberg looking -- ahem -- refreshed, the pair combined for four points in a convincing 5-0 win in Game 5. Datsyuk had two assists, while Zetterberg had a goal and an assist.

"It's special ... we did it together," Datsyuk told NHL.com in a post-game, walk-off interview. "I tried to do my best. In the playoffs, it's a different story. It's always harder to score. We're happy to win."

A win that has reverted the talk to Detroit continuing its dynastic run at a second straight Stanley Cup championship and the fifth in 12 years, which it can secure with a victory in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. And just like that, Datsyuk, who only had eight points through the first three rounds, made his presence felt against a Pens team that completely unraveled during a four-goal second period that featured the pulling of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

As usual, Datsyuk -- who logged 17:38 of ice time -- and Zetterberg contributed on both ends of the ice. Not only did they play a role in three of Detroit's five goals, but they completely shut down Pittsburgh's talented tandem of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, which combined for just two shots on goal. Datsyuk even showed his physical side, laying a thunderous hit on Malkin into the boards during the opening period. Datsyuk and Zetterberg also had three takeaways apiece.

"This guy's one of the best players in the world, both offensively and defensively," Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Datsyuk. "He just makes the team more comfortable. We needed plays, and suddenly we relaxed and we made plays. He can help us get over the top."

He certainly did on Saturday, assisting on Daniel Cleary's game-opening goal at 13:32 of the first period. Datsyuk's sharp pass from just inside the Pittsburgh blue line landed right on the tape of Cleary's stick, and he ripped a shot from between the circles past Fleury to make it 1-0. Datsyuk also picked up the primary assist on Brian Rafalski's power-play goal at 8:26 of the second, which gave the Red Wings a 4-0 lead.

"He hasn't played in quite a while and he looked like himself," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "He made a good play on the first goal. You know, he is so hard to defend when he has the puck. He did a great job for us."

Datsyuk attributed much of Saturday's success to his linemate. Zetterberg rounded out the scoring with a power-play goal at 15:40 of the second period.

"He helped me a lot," Datsyuk said. "I feel good today. When I play more, I feel better and come back in more shape."

With Datsyuk back in the mix, the Red Wings are in much better shape. Together, he and Zetterberg made sure the team would receive two cracks at winning another Stanley Cup.

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final Gear"It was fun to have him by my side again," Zetterberg said. "I got the hint a few days ago that we might end up together. He makes a lot of good plays. He creates a lot of room for his linemates. It was fun to see him out there, and we're all glad he's back."

Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall echoed Zetterberg's sentiments.

"It looked like he was back to his old self," Kronwall said. "He had a lot of fun out there, and I think everyone just (fed) off that. It was great having him back in the lineup. He was doing it all for us, as he always does."

In this building, it was nothing new.

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.







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