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Penguins might be doomed by failed 5-on-3

NHL.com @NHL

PITTSBURGH (AP) -The Pittsburgh Penguins might not have another chance like this anytime soon.

Not in these Stanley Cup finals, with an exceptional opportunity at home to even up the series with Detroit. Maybe not until they get to the finals again, and who can guarantee when that might be?

Down 2-1 in a win-or-else Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday night, the Penguins had a two-man advantage for 1:26 of the third period - which, to the Red Wings must have seemed like it lasted 1 hour, 26 minutes.

Evgeni Malkin was out on the power play. Sidney Crosby was out. Here was the chance of chances for Pittsburgh to tie it, get the home crowd back into it, seize back the momentum and, possibly, put Detroit in a catch-up mode for the first time in the series.

Instead, the Red Wings killed it off as Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom each made big plays during the penalty kill, plus the half-minute or so of 5-on-4 power play time that followed, and held on for a 2-1 victory that changes the dynamics of the series.

The biggest play? Crosby, at the side of the net and the puck on his stick, was driven behind the goal line by a Zetterberg hit and, a few seconds later, Zetterberg broke into the Pittsburgh zone to kill more valuable time.

It was the play of the game. It might have been the play of the series.

"Zetterberg was fantastic during that 5-on-3," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "In January, it's probably a tic-tac-toe pass and the puck's in the net."

Pittsburgh couldn't score during its biggest sequence of the playoffs and, now, needs a historic comeback to win the Cup.

"That 5-on-3, it was huge for us," Zetterberg said.

Now, instead of Pittsburgh going to Detroit all tied up and with a chance to take the finals lead heading back home for Game 6, the Penguins must win three in a row, two in Detroit.

After the game, Crosby could be seen talking to Zetterberg, and not in a friendly way. He might have showed the frustration of a young team that was good for much of the two games in Pittsburgh, but not quite good enough against a team as experienced and deep as Detroit, which was without injured top-line forward Tomas Holmstrom.

Of the six previous teams to rally from a 3-1 deficit to tie a series, only one, Toronto against Detroit in 1942, won three in a row and the Stanley Cup. (The Maple Leafs rallied from 3-0 down in that series.)

A lot of streaks ended with the Penguins' first home-ice loss in 18 games, or since a 2-1 shootout loss to San Jose on Feb. 24. Also ended was goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's 19-game winning streak in Pittsburgh, one that was interrupted by a three-month injury layoff but began the night before Thanksgiving - more than six months ago.

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