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Penguins send a message

by Shawn P. Roarke

The Pittsburgh Penguins decided to send a message to the Red Wings at the end of Game 2. Pens-Red Wings Game 2 highlights
DETROIT – Sending messages is as old as hockey itself, part of some secret code that only hockey players are privy to, it seems.

Pittsburgh, on its way to an 0-2 series hole in the third period of Monday night's Game 2, decided it was time to send a message or two against the dominant Detroit Red Wings in the waning moments of a 3-0 loss at a rocking Joe Louis Arena.

Next thing you know, Gary Roberts, one of the most intimidating players in the League, even at age 42, is going after Johan Franzen – fresh from a head injury. Petr Sykora is bumping into Detroit goalie Chris Osgood. Yes, perhaps Osgood did embellish the hit a wee bit, as goalies are prone to do, but the Penguins used that as an excuse to engage in a five-on-five scrum in the corner.

When the dust cleared, both Roberts and Max Talbot had 10-minute misconducts and Roberts, Sykora and Evgeni Malkin had minor penalties for Pittsburgh to cap off a 46-minute night of penalties for the visitors. Andreas Lilja and Franzen took roughing penalties for the hosts, who took just 16 minutes in infractions.

"They want to send a message at the end of the game and show what we can have to expect when we come to their place," Franzen said.

So, did this fabled message-sending work?

It depends whom you ask and at what point of the season the message is delivered. In the regular season, message-sending antics can be effective. But in the postseason, with a team just a few wins from the immortality that comes with claiming the Stanley Cup, it is highly unlikely that a team can be knocked off its game by a few physical challenges. Especially when said team is loaded with veterans – like the 2008 Detroit Red Wings.

Franzen was asked if sending messages works. He had this to say: "Not against this group. There are a lot of veterans. We don't care what the other team is doing. We're more focused on our own game."

After the game, before departing for a short, but miserable, flight home, the Penguins accused Osgood – he of the back-to-back shutouts – of diving to embellish the run-in with Sykora.

Did he dive? Penguins coach Michel Therrien thinks so.

"We took two penalties tonight on the goalie," said Therrien, referring to an earlier penalty against Ryan Malone and the late one against Sykora. "We never take penalty to the goalie in the playoff. I'll tell you something, I reviewed those plays. He's a good actor. He goes to players, and he's diving."

Osgood won't – and shouldn't – say if he did. But know this: He won't be fazed by the accusations of diving coming from Therrien and the men inside the Penguins' dressing room.

"A lot of times this stuff happens after the whistle," Osgood said. "It doesn't concern me. I've been called worse. I'm not really concerned about it right now. The minute the buzzer goes, it's out of my head. I don't think about the past. I just played between the whistles, that's all I do. I'm more concerned about next game than about this game."

That is the foundation of the success Detroit has enjoyed; the foundation of the game plan that has delivered them to within two games of bringing another Stanley Cup to "Hockeytown."

"The way we try to do it is we try to play as hard as we can between the whistles, and we try to shoot the puck in the net when you take penalties," said Mike Babcock, the Wings coach. "And to me, we just try to keep our poise and play. The stuff after the whistle and all that, that's not going to win us any games. Between the whistles is. And we're just going to try to continue to play the way our team is built to play."

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