Phil Coffey | NHL.com Editorial Director
DETROIT – Back-to-back 3-1 victories to start the 2009 Stanley Cup Final have the Detroit Red Wings right back where they were against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the '08 Final – leading the series 2-0.
Jonathan Ericsson, Valtteri Filppula and Justin Abdelkader scored for the Wings in Game 2, while Evgeni Malkin scored the lone goal for the Pens against Chris Osgood.
Malkin received an instigator penalty for a fight with Detroit’s Henrik Zetternberg at 19:41, but will not be suspended.
NHL Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell issued the following statement regarding the instigator penalty:
Rule 47.22 states: "A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five minutes or at any time in overtime shall be suspended for one game, pending a review of the incident. The director of hockey operations will review every such incident and may rescind the suspension based on a number of criteria. The criteria for the review shall include, but not be limited to, the score, previous incidents, etc..."
Following that review, Campbell said: "None of the criteria in this rule applied in this situation. Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight. A suspension could also be applied when a player seeks retribution for a prior incident. Neither was the case here and therefore the one game suspension is rescinded."
Despite the two wins in back-to-back games, Babcock said he is delighted to have Monday's off-day reach his calendar.
"I think we were exhausted," Babcock said of the Wings. "It's amazing what a win will do for you. We should be a better team going into Pittsburgh. We need to freshen up."
"We made it through the back-to-back games and now we can take advantage of the day off," defenseman Brian Rafalski said.
"Guys are determined," Dan Cleary said. "We showed a lot of determination tonight. Our young players are playing great for us."
The Penguins are a team in need of answers and holding frustration at bay.
"I think it ended up being a lot alike," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said of the weekend games. "We had stretches where we played good. We got scoring chances and pucks around the net. Didn't capitalize on them when they need to, and they got timely goals and goals in around our net and end up with the victory.
"I think in each of the first two games we have been able to play in the offensive zone for periods of time," Bylsma said. "We've been able to get shots. Been able to out-shoot a good Detroit team. But they've been able to get the timely goals. They've been better at getting pucks in and around the net and getting that goal. That's what I've done better and as a result they've got two wins. So as there are some positives we can do and draw on, and focus on ask get better at our game. Continue to get there. Get to the on offensive zone, get to the goalie. Look for those loose pucks and build on that. That's what we'll do when we get back for Game 3."
Officials went to video replay at 1:39 of the third period to verify a Sidney Crosby shot rang off the post and then rolled along the Detroit goal line without going in.
That good fortune seemed to spark the Wings, who took a 3-1 lead at 2:47 when Abdelkader scored his second goal in two games, gaining enough control of a bouncing puck to send a knuckler past Marc-Andre Fleury's glove for a two-goal Detroit lead.
The Wings had the edge in the second period, taking the lead, 2-1, on goals by Ericsson and Filppula and out-shooting the Penguins 16-9.
Intense pressure by the Wings forced a Pittsburgh icing and the Wings pounced on the tired Penguins off the ensuing draw, with Darren Helm screening Fleury as Ericsson's shot from the left point found the back of the net, tying the score at 1-1.
The Red Wings kept up the pressure throughout the second, forcing Fleury to make a number of good saves. But he couldn't stem the tide completely and Flippula put the Wings ahead at 10:29 on a play that had Pittsburgh screaming in frustration.
Marian Hossa took the puck away from Pascal Dupuis on the left side, but the Penguins' cries for a penalty went unheeded and Hossa got the puck on net where Tomas Holmstrom was keeping everyone in a white jersey occupied. The puck popped out to Fleury's left and Filppula was able to get enough on his stick on the puck to backhand the puck over the sea of bodies in front.
"I think the way I saw the replay that our guy was trying to get the puck out," Bylsma said. "Hossa came in and used his stick to lift up the guy's stick. You can make the judgment. The referee made the judgment that it wasn't a hook. I can slow it down and look at it myself and make my own judgment, but that was what happened. We failed to clear it with that hook and it led to the goal."
"Guys are determined. We showed a lot of determination tonight. Our young players are playing great for us." -- Dan ClearyBill Guerin had a pair of excellent chances, the first coming with 6:50 remaining in the period when he clanged a Crosby pass off the post. Two minutes later, Guerin got some space in close to Chris Osgood, but his redirection of a Crosby pass went wide of the net.
Evgeni Malkin's power-play goal at 16:50 was the only goal of the first period that was played at a very brisk pace considered the clubs had played the previous night.
With Niklas Kronwall off for cross-checking Max Talbot, the Pens, who had struggled to mount much offense in the early going, being out-shot 6-0 at one point, struck.
With Malkin joining Crosby, Guerin, Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang on the power play, the Penguins put on some intense pressure in front of the Detroit net, forcing Osgood to drop and make a couple saves.
Perhaps Osgood got too much help on the goal as defenseman Brad Stuart was flaying away at a series of loose pucks in the crease, only to inadvertently knock Malkin's shot into the net.
The Wings were terrific on the breakout early in the game, playing a good portion of the early going in the Pittsburgh zone, but Detroit wasn't able to mount much sustained pressure, eventually being out-shot 9-7 for the period.
Another good sign for the Penguins was their success in the faceoff circle. After losing a lopsided 39 of 55 draws in Game 1, Pittsburgh claimed the edge in the first 20 minutes of Game 2, going 9-7.
The only lineup change in Game 2 was made by the Penguins, who returned to a traditional 12 forwards, six defensemen rotation. Pascal Dupuis replaced Philippe Boucher, another signal that concern over Gonchar's recovery from injury was abating.
Tomas Holmstrom had one of his dominant shifts right before Detroit's first goal. He was everywhere on the ice, battling on the boards and tying up defensemen in front of the net -- a typical 45 seconds of mayhem when Holmstrom is cycling in the offensive zone. He capped a three-shot barrage by his team with a nifty tip that tested Marc-Andre Fleury and forced Pittsburgh into an icing. Detroit defenseman Johan Ericsson scored off the ensuing faceoff win to tie the game at 1-1 with 4:21 gone in the second.
Justin Abdelkader didn't get much ice time in the first two periods of Game 1, playing just four shifts. He scored a third-period goal in that game, though, and was used much more extensively in Game 2. He had a "greasy" game that coach Mike Babcock loves to see from his energy line. He led the team in hits -- including an impressive open-ice hit on Evgeni Malkin in the second period -- and helped out in the faceoff circle with some big wins. He scored the back-breaking goal for the second-straight night, tallying Detroit's third goal in the fifth minute of the third period.
So much for tired bodies with these two teams playing back-to-back games to open the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. Few thought that Detroit and Pittsburgh could duplicate the 82-check performance in Game 1, a battle that was won by Detroit's 43 hits. But in Sunday's Game 2, each team once again topped the 30-hit mark.
Detroit went more than 12 minutes between shots during a stretch that ran from the 9:44 mark of the first period until fourth-liner Ville Leino registered a long-range snapper at the 1:51 mark of the second. Pittsburgh had 10-straight shots during that stretch, but could only manage the power-play goal by Evgeni Malkin.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma finally ditched his seven-defenseman alignment in Game 2, scratching Philippe Boucher in favor of forward Pascal Dupuis. Boucher had played the past eight games as an extra defenseman. Dupuis was used as a penalty killer, while taking a regular shift on the fourth line. But, he was also the player that was without his stick when Valterri Filppula scored Detroit's second goal.
-- Shawn P. Roarke