Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor
-- It takes more than just brave words to knock off a champion.
That's the painful and humbling lesson the defending champion Detroit Red Wings
administered to the no-longer-chatty Penguins in Saturday night's Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Joe Louis Arena, authoring a 5-0 victory that puts the Red Wings on the precipice of their 12th Stanley Cup.
Detroit has won 11 of 12 home games at "The Joe" this postseason.
Saturday's showing certainly put to rest the contention by Penguin players during the past 48 hours that the veteran Red Wings -- particularly top center Henrik Zetterberg
-- were worn down and frustrated after dropping back-to-back 4-2 decisions at Mellon Arena to even the series at 2-2.
"Anything like that -- too old, too tired, too slow, that doesn't bother us one bit," said Detroit forward Dan Cleary, who had the game-opening goal. "We pride ourselves on being a good team, being fast, working hard and we showed it tonight."
It certainly did.
The Cup champions showed their class, especially during the first 15 minutes of the second period when Detroit turned a nail-biting 1-0 lead into a statement game. The final three goals of the outburst all came on the power play, which had been dormant throughout the first four games of the series.
Detroit goalie Chris Osgood, who had allowed seven goals in the past two games, turned in a 22-save shutout.
But it was Zetterberg, the player most often verbally targeted by a Pittsburgh team that was clearly feeling its oats after putting the defending champions on the ropes after the two wins at Mellon Arena, who stole the show. He assisted on the first power-play goal and scored the game's final goal, also on the power play.
The Swedish center finished with a goal, an assist, a plus-1 rating and six shots in a little more than 20 minutes of ice time. He was joined on his line by Pavel Datsyuk
, who had been out since May 19 with an injury to his left foot. All Datsyuk did in his return was score a goal and assist on another, the game-opening goal by Cleary.
But back to Zetterberg ...
Aside from his offensive numbers, he did perhaps his best job of the series defending Sidney Crosby
, who had a dominating Game 4. Zetterberg also drew a slashing penalty -- born of frustration -- on Crosby, who was a minus-2 with just one shot in 18:33 of ice time.
"I thought the whole team showed up with determination tonight," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom
said. "(Zetterberg) was one of our leaders up front the way he played -- the way he played against Crosby; but on the offensive end, too. He's making plays and playing real well for us."
Afterward, with Detroit in position to win the Cup with a win in one of the next two games, Zetterberg said the assertions coming out of the Pittsburgh dressing room on Thursday night were a non-issue.
"You try not to pay attention to it," Zetterberg said. "The media try to get some things going. You just focus on your game. Of course you get tired at the end of games. But yesterday, we had a day off. We refocused and we were ready to go today."
It should be noted that the Red Wings weren't ready right away Saturday night.
Pittsburgh dominated the first few minutes of the game, looking like the team that used its speed and youth to put up three goals in a six-minute span of Game 4 to turn a 2-1 Detroit lead into a 4-2 come-from-behind victory that made the Wings look a tad vulnerable.
When Chris Kunitz
drew a tripping penalty from Niklas Kronwall
at 7:19 of the first period -- the first play stoppage in a furiously paced start -- there was genuine cause for concern among the home faithful.
Detroit's penalty-killing unit has been its Achilles' heel in this series, and now here were the full-of-confidence Penguins going back on the man advantage. But thanks to some stellar work by defensemen Lidstrom and Brad Stuart
, Pittsburgh never got set up in the offensive zone for an extended period and could not get a shot on goal.
"That was big," Cleary said. "That was a huge difference, a huge play early in the game. We struggled on the penalty kill, but we found a way to get it constantly 200 feet down the ice. Those are momentum-shifting kills. It was big for us."
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma agreed.
"If we score a goal (there); it's different momentum in the game," Bylsma said. "But there's still a lot of hockey to play at that point."
A lot of hockey maybe, but it was all one-sided.
While the Red Wings were scoring goal after goal and chasing a clearly flustered Marc-Andre Fleury
(16 saves on 21 shots before being pulled after Zetterberg's goal), Pittsburgh was losing its composure.
Each team took just one minor penalty in the first period, but Pittsburgh took five in the second and six penalties -- including three misconducts -- in the third. Detroit took just three penalties in the whole game.
Detroit opened the second period on the power play -- there was 1:39 remaining in Chris Kunitz
's goalie interference penalty -- and immediately set the tone for a four-goal outburst that put the game away. The Red Wings didn't score on the man advantage, but put the Penguins on their heels as Nicklas Lidstrom
, Jiri Hudler
, Pavel Datsyuk
and Johan Franzen
all had excellent chances. Five seconds after the penalty expired, Valtteri Filppula
scored on a semi-breakaway keyed by goalie Chris Osgood's outlet pass.
's name didn't show up on the score sheet very often Saturday night, but he made some key contributions, including yeoman's work on a first-period penalty when the game was still close. Stuart killed all but 22 seconds of a tripping penalty on Niklas Kronwall
, with a blocked shot and a clear during that time. He finished by playing 22:48 of near-flawless hockey.
With Pavel Datsyuk
back in the lineup for the first time since May 19, coach Mike Babcock had the opportunity to put his two best offensive players -- Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg
-- on the same line, a combo Pittsburgh could not handle. Datsyuk, a natural center, played the wing, while Zetterberg was the center. Daniel Cleary
was the other wing on the line and he scored the game-opening goal.
The first period was played at the most furious pace of the Final. How intense was it? There were just eight stoppages in the period and the first did not come until 7:16 had elapsed in the game. In fact, there were just three faceoffs in the first 13:09 of the contest.
Osgood, who made 22 saves for the shutout, also played a part in Detroit's offensive fireworks Saturday night. It was his head-man pass as a Pittsburgh penalty expired that caught the Penguins making a personnel change and sent Marian Hossa and Valtteri Filppula
off in transition. Filppula took a sweet backhanded saucer pass from Hossa to beat Marc-Andre Fleury
for Detroit's second goal of the night. It was the fifth assist of Osgood's postseason career.
--Shawn P. Roarke