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Loud crowd support a boon for Penguins

by Staff
PITTSBURGH -- As it has all season, the home crowd at Mellon Arena pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins to victory.

The "Let's Go Pens" chants started during the pregame skate, and the noise level rose throughout the game, reaching its zenith when Sergei Gonchar slapped home the game-winning goal midway through the third period in what would be a 4-2 win over Detroit in Game 3.

"They might have had to open (the roof) up," Penguins forward Bill Guerin joked about the seldom-used retractable roof at Mellon Arena.

But Guerin was forced to acknowledge the role the crowd played in this game, pushing the Pens to greater heights as they tried to fight their way out of an 0-2 hole after back-to-back losses in hostile Detroit.

"It helps tremendously," Guerin said of the crowd. "You feed off that; you don't want to let your fans down. You feed off the energy in the building, everybody is rooting for you and you feed off that. Anybody that says the home team doesn't feed off its fans is a liar."

The Mellon Arena crowd also gave the Red Wings a rough ride -- especially Marian Hossa, who played for the Penguins last year before signing this past summer as a free agent with Detroit. Hossa was booed vociferously every time he touched the puck.

"They're obviously making it vocal how they feel," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "We want this to be a place that is tough to play in. We want to play well here. I think tonight they really energized us. That aside, it's a great place to play and we want to do our best in front of them.

--Shawn P. Roarke

No reason to panic -- Despite the fact that they came up short in Game 3, the Detroit Red Wings were far from hysterical in their dressing room following the loss.

After all, the defending champions still own a 2-1 lead in this best-of-7 series and can create an opportunity to clinch on home ice should they come away with a victory in Thursday's Game 4.

"We're still up 2-1, so that's a good situation," forward Valtteri Filppula said. "I think we're playing pretty well, so I don't think we have to change too many things. That's always a good thing going ahead."

-- Brian Compton

Not Ozzie's fault -- He may have allowed three goals on just 20 shots, but the Red Wings were not about to pin the blame on goaltender Chris Osgood after Tuesday's 4-2 loss at Mellon Arena.

The Pittsburgh Penguins went 2-for-3 on the power play in Game 3, and Osgood appeared to be screened when Sergei Gonchar broke a 2-2 tie at 10:29 of the third period.

"He came up huge for us a couple of times, especially in the first period," Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said of Osgood. "We have to do a better job of getting some more pucks to the net and score some more goals."

Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom agreed.

"I don't think he saw that third one … it looked like he got screened," said Lidstrom, who played a game-high 26:40. "I thought special teams were the difference. They got two on the power play, and we only responded with one. They got the win on the power plays."

-- Brian Compton

Prospecting the Stanley Cup Final -- Five of the top prospects projected to go in the opening round of the 2009 Entry Draft in Montreal on June 26 were stationed in Section B30, Row E, for Game 3 at Mellon Arena on Tuesday night.

John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, Evander Kane and Brayden Schenn were all there, soaking in the atmosphere of their first Stanley Cup Final game.

Tavares, who is expected to go first overall, was routinely leaning over to his mother and father, discussing game strategy and missed opportunities. The other four prospects did the same.

"I thought it was a heck of a game, but I think that's expected from two hockey teams with a lot of great players," Tavares said. "I'm happy to be here and to be a part of it. I thought Pittsburgh had a strong finish in the first and getting that late goal (by Kris Letang) was big. I'm sure the Penguins felt pretty good about themselves after that goal. It was anyone's game after that."

-- Mike Morreale

Managing their assets -- In Game 3, Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton saw the team he's been accustomed to playing behind during the team's great stretch run.

"We got back to what made us successful the last two months," Eaton said. "We managed the puck the way we can."

-- Larry Wigge

Not-so-strong finish -- For a team that prides itself on taking charge in the third period, the Red Wings had to be disappointed with the way they played in the final 20 minutes of Game 3.

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final GearDetroit had outshot its opponents 210-153 in the final 20 minutes of its first 18 playoff games and outscored the opposition 19-6. But Pittsburgh got the only two goals of the third period and outshot the Red Wings 10-3.

"I thought they had a better push at the start of the third period than we did," Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

The Penguins are no slouches in the third period themselves. They've outscored their opponents 26-21 in the third period of their 20 playoff games this year, outshooting the opposition 209-172.

--John Kreiser

Killed by the penalty kill
-- Detroit had problems on the penalty kill all season long, especially on the road. That tendency has continued in this year's playoffs.

Pittsburgh went 2-for-3 in its 4-2 victory in Game 3, scoring the tying goal late in the first period and the go-ahead goal (by Sergei Gonchar) midway through the third on the power play.

The Wings have now allowed 18 power-play goals this spring on only 63 attempts, a success rate of just 71.4 percent on the penalty kill.

"I didn't like the first power play, but that's the way it goes," Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Kris Letang's blast Chris Osgood at 15:57 of the opening period. "In the second power play, they had us hemmed in. I don't know how long. 1:52, (we) couldn't get our sticks on it.

"To me there're two good teams playing real hard. They found a way to execute, they scored, that's it."

The Wings' penalty-killing has struggled especially badly on the road during the postseason. The two goals allowed Tuesday night were the ninth and 10th surrendered  in 29 attempts during Detroit's eight road playoff games, a 65.5 percent success rate that's a big drop from the Wings' next-to-last 76.4 percent showing during the regular season.

"I don't know what time it was on the clock when we scored that (Gonchar's goal), but it was well past 1:20 into that PK. They were tired. Our guys were tired. But the determination with the sticks and guys in front of that we got the big goal." -- Pens coach Dan Bylsma on Sergei Gonchar's game winning power play goal
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said his players deserved a lot of the credit for cashing in twice on their three opportunities.

"Our guys did a great job tonight," he said. "We broke the pressure when they did have loose pucks and did start to be aggressive again. We came up with good sticks and kept that thing alive. And I don't know what time it was on the clock when we scored that (Gonchar's goal), but it was well past 1:20 into that PK. They were tired. Our guys were tired. But the determination with the sticks and guys in front of that we got the big goal."                       

--John Kreiser
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