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Red Wings take it on the chin on special teams

by Brian Compton
PITTSBURGH -- Following Tuesday night's 4-2 loss in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena, the Detroit Red Wings could easily have used the excuse that it was simply a case of playing three games in four nights.

The defending champions refused to go that route, however. Instead, Henrik Zetterberg -- who logged 24:19 of ice time and had a goal and an assist -- and his teammates cited special teams as the difference.

"That third goal was huge, and they got it on the power play," Zetterberg said of Sergei Gonchar's goal, which broke a 2-2 tie with 9:31 remaining and was Pittsburgh's second goal of the night with the man advantage. "I think we couldn't keep going the way we did in the second. If we would have done that, I think it would have been a bit different."

Neither team found the back of the net in the second period, although Detroit did everything it could to grab the lead. The Red Wings outshot the Pens 14-4 in the middle period, only to be denied by Marc-Andre Fleury each time.

In the third, it was all Pittsburgh. The Penguins outshot the Wings 10-3 in the period and finally broke through when Gonchar's shot from the point beat Chris Osgood 1:23 after Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson went off for interference. Pittsburgh finished 2-for-3 on the power play.

"Not really," Zetterberg said when asked if fatigue was a factor. "I think we felt good and we were skating good. It was the same thing for them."

Zetterberg -- one of the top defensive forwards in the sport -- again managed to prevent Penguins star Sidney Crosby from scoring, although No. 87 picked up his first point of the series with an assist on Gonchar's goal. Zetterberg easily received the most minutes of any Wings' forward, and only Nicklas Lidstrom (26:40) saw more ice time in Game 3.

"I'm feeling good," Zetterberg said. "I got a good day off yesterday. It was no problem today."

As for Crosby breaking through for his first point of the Final, Zetterberg wasn't exactly shocked.

"He's a good player," Zetterberg said. "He's going to get his points. He plays a lot. It's not a big surprise."

Still, Detroit has to be pleased with the job players such as Zetterberg, Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski have done against Crosby, who has 14 goals this postseason -- but none in the Final. Their teammates are certainly impressed.

"Hank's been tremendous for us," Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "He's done a great job of always staying on top of him and not giving him much room out there, together with Nick and Raffi. Hopefully we can keep doing a good job on him."

Truth be told, Evgeni Malkin has been Pittsburgh's most dangerous weapon in the first three games of this series. The Russian forward assisted on the Pens' first three goals, including a beautiful setup on Maxime Talbot's game-opening tally at 4:48 of the first period.

"He's skilled on the power play and he gets a lot of room," Zetterberg said of Malkin. "He's got a good shot and he's a good passer. We've just got to keep working hard."

The Red Wings will practice Wednesday afternoon at Mellon Arena, where Mike Babcock & Co. will attempt to figure a way to contain Pittsburgh's deadly power play. On the deciding goal Tuesday night, the Pens held the puck in the Wings' zone for a lengthy period of time before Gonchar finally buried it.

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final Gear"Special teams are important," Zetterberg said. "They had a few power plays today, and they scored. We couldn't get a puck out, especially on that third goal. I think we did a lot of good things, but we ended up being (in our zone) for almost 90 seconds. You get tired, and they were able to make the play eventually.

"We have a day tomorrow to see what we did well and keep doing the good things. We're looking forward to a good Game 4."

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