PITTSBURGH - It took Sidney Crosby at the top of his game to put the Pittsburgh Penguins back in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.
Crosby scored Pittsburgh's first two goals of the series and Adam Hall got the game-winner as the Penguins came alive with a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final on Wednesday night. The Red Wings, who shut out Pittsburgh in consecutive games in Detroit, lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Saturday night at Mellon Arena.
With his team in danger of being pushed to the brink of elimination, Crosby stayed quiet before the game, pondering what needed to be done against the NHL's best defensive club. Then the 2007 league MVP went out and delivered.
"It was just desperation," said the 20-year-old, a force all game for a Pittsburgh team that has won all nine of its home games in the playoffs so far. "I wanted to make sure that personally, I had a good game.
"I think we all believed that if we put our best game out there, we would give ourselves a good chance. You have to lead by example and do your job out there. That's all I was trying to do. It's not hard to get up for a game this big."
The Penguins won for the 17th straight time in their home rink - this time in a wildly entertaining, end-to-end game that had the sellout crowd of 17,132 roaring through most of the second and third periods.
Johan Franzen scored his playoff-leading 13th goal and Mikael Samuelsson also scored for the Red Wings, who bid farewell to their six-game Stanley Cup final winning streak started in their five-game win over Carolina in 2002.
The crowd was in a frenzy as Hall gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead 7:18 into the third period, banking a shot in off scrambling goalie Chris Osgood's back from behind the net.
But a seeing-eye shot from the right boards by Samuelsson - his third of the series - went in off the stick of Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik and past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with 6:23 left to play, setting up a nervy ending for the young Penguins as Detroit pressed for the tying goal.
Their troubles were compounded when Evgeni Malkin, who played his best game of the series but still has just one goal and one assist in the last seven games, took a hooking penalty with 4:18 left to play. Pittsburgh killed it off, then held on the rest of the way.
"We still have to keep going, but for sure we needed this one," said Crosby. "We all earned it, and that's the reward. A big win."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he was partly to blame for the defeat. He said he overused stars Henrik Zetterberg, who had 24:40 of ice time, and Pavel Datsyuk, who played 22:34 - both highs among forwards - and left his secondary players sitting too long.
"I didn't think we used our bench good enough tonight," said Babcock. "We didn't have the same kind of tempo that we had coming off our bench the first couple of games."
He also said Crosby and linemate Marian Hossa played far better, but so did many of the Penguins - including their penalty killers, who held the Red Wings to 1-for-5.
The Penguins skated out to a white-out - a crowd nearly all dressed in white T-shirts handed out at the door - but after an early chance by Ryan Malone, the home side was lulled to sleep by the Red Wings' checking. Detroit led 9-1 in shots in the opening 14 minutes.
Coach Michel Therrien then moved the struggling Malkin onto the top line with Crosby and Hossa and his team came to life, dominating the rest of the period and most of the second.
They also forced a break for the elusive opening goal.
Defenceman Brad Stuart hit Zetterberg's skate with a pass in the Detroit zone, allowing Crosby to grab the puck and work a give-and-go with Hossa to put a shot in off Osgood's pad at 17:25. The goal was the first for the Penguins in 153 minutes 22 seconds and the first allowed by Osgood in 154:58.
"Finally," Crosby said. "It wasn't that the chances weren't there, it's just that finally one went in for us.
"We had hit posts and didn't get the bounces. Finally one went in, and it felt good to get the first one."
Only 2:34 into the second period, Crosby banged Hossa's rebound in at the side of the net on a power play.
Penguins defenceman Hal Gill then took consecutive cross-checking penalties and, on the second of them, Franzen got the puck at the blue-line, deked around Rob Scuderi and went in alone to beat Fleury at 14:48.
Therrien juggled his lines often from the second period on, looking to keep the Red Wings checkers off balance. It was mostly effective.
"The first 10 minutes we were on our heels a bit," said Therrien. "We're a young team. It's a process with these guys and it's normal they were a bit nervous.
"We tried to change the momentum and bring more speed. After that, I think we took over that period."
Crosby said he got the message when he saw the gifted No. 71 on his wing.
"We know what the message is," he said. "We need to create an opportunity and some momentum and we tried to do that.
"That's our responsibility on the team - to make sure we do something with it."
Fleury has now won 19 straight starts at Mellon Arena.
The crowd may have got its biggest charge in the second period when bruising defenceman Orpik dished out four or five of the seven hits he was given credit for in the game - three times knocking Red Wings down.
Notes: Veteran defenceman Darryl Sydor saw his first action of these playoffs replacing rookie Kristopher Letang. There were no other lineup changes for either team. ... The Penguins' goal drought broke the previous franchise playoff record of 151:18 against New Jersey in the 2001 conference final. ... Since 1991, the Red Wings have played more playoff games than any other North American sports franchise with 217. The NBA's San Antonio Spurs are next with 204.