Phil Coffey | NHL.com Editorial Director
DETROIT – An unassisted goal is an anathema to a team built on collective success like the Detroit Red Wings. But two unassisted goals off the stick of Mikael Samuelsson lifted the Wings to a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Samuelsson netted the game-winning goal at 13:01 of the second period and added some insurance at 2:16 of the third period to get the Wings off to a strong start.
But to say Samuelsson was the sole reason for the Red Wings’ win would be a disservice to his teammates, who dominated play after an even first period. Detroit did a masterful job limiting the Penguins to just 19 shots, 12 of which came in the first period.
Goalie Chris Osgood wasn’t the beneficiary of an easy night in goal, either, despite gaining the shutout. Despite his team’s dominance over the latter 40 minutes, Osgood was very strong in the first period, making a dozen saves, including several real testers from the Penguins’ strong array of offensive talent.
Despite the presence of players like Sidney Crosby, Marian Hossa and Evgeni Malkin, the Pens were lucky to escape the second period with just the 1-0 deficit as the Red Wings seemed to tip the ice toward the Pittsburgh end, finishing the middle 20 minutes with a 16-4 shot advantage and the lead thanks to Samuelsson’s first unassisted goal, a goal that was anything but unassisted.
Let’s explain. Samuelsson picked off a clearing pass by Jarkko Ruutu at center ice, gained the Pittsburgh zone and drove to the net and then behind it, coming out on the other side and beating Fleury with a backhand shot as the Penguins’ goalie was just a split second late getting across.
“I was on the red line and they were going on the offense, so I stepped up on the blue line, so I had a little room,” Samuelsson said. “I couldn’t get it in front of the net, so I just tried the back.”
|Mikael Samuelsson, a former Penguin, scored two unassisted goals to lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 4-0 win over Pittsburgh in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
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So it was an unassisted goal to be sure. But the Red Wings had put on so much sustained pressure prior to the goal that the Penguins players were exhausted trying to keep the Wings off the scoreboard. It’s ironic that Samuelsson’s goal came as a direct result of the Penguins finally being able to clear the zone.
Samuelsson came within the width of the goal post – two goal posts, actually – of opening the scoring just 1:33 into the second period when he rang a shot off the left post and the puck then jumped across and hit the right post before caroming away.
The Penguins’ best chance came with 13:46 left in the period when Pascal Dupuis grabbed a loose puck and had a partial break down the left side. The speedy winger cut to the Red Wings net, but Osgood stood his ground, didn’t go for a deke and got the tip of his right pad on the shot, forcing the puck and Dupuis into the corner.
Samuelsson struck again at 2:16 of the third period, and while the goal again was clearly called correctly as unassisted, Samuelsson had some help. He created a turnover in the Pittsburgh end, and in the ensuing scramble, Malkin gained control of the puck but lost it when he collided with Kris Draper. Samuelsson was left alone in front of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, and he pounded the puck home.
The Wings’ dominance over the second and third periods was in marked contrast to the opening 20 minutes. There, the scoreless tie certainly lived up to the hype that preceded the series as both the Wings and Pens went up and down the ice, producing numerous scoring chances that were denied by the goaltenders.
Penalties helped set up a number of prime scoring chances, especially for the Penguins. Ironically, Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang was whistled for the first penalty of the game – interference, at 3:51. But he was followed to the box by Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom just 11 seconds later to negate the Detroit power play. Holmstrom was called for high sticking Brooks Orpik.
Holmstrom’s second penalty of the period, at 15:50, especially was costly, resulting in a goal by Nicklas Lidstrom being waved off because Holmstrom got his stick between Fleury’s pads, resulting in a goaltender interference call.
Fleury, who tripped jumping on the ice to start the game, got all the jitters out of the way with that embarrassing moment as he was sharp in the first, stopping all 11 Detroit shots. He made a nice save on Pavel Datsyuk early, and made another seconds later on Kirk Maltby. In the dying moments of the period, Fleury stopped Brian Rafalski’s power-play drive from the right circle.
Osgood certainly was no slouch in his end. He stopped a dozen shots, including several testing drives from Hossa, Crosby and Petr Sykora.
Hossa had a great scoring chance at 10:07, but a sprawling Osgood dove into the crease and got his shoulder on an attempt by Hossa to slip the puck cross-ice to Crosby. Osgood came up big again during a Penguins power play at 7:53 when he made a good save through traffic on Sykora. Lady Luck was on his side as the rebound was loose in front until the Red Wings’ defense could clear.
Osgood was huge again at 6:33 when a hard shot off the backboards caromed to Crosby, who tipped the puck high, but Osgood never lost sight of it and made a sharp glove save. Seconds later, Osgood made another strong save on a Crosby deflection.
With 3:30 left the Osgood show continued when he denied Hossa from in close off a slick Crosby pass.