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Wings pay big price for power-play failure

by Mike G. Morreale
PITTSBURGH -- The Detroit Red Wings, the NHL's masters of error-proof hockey, are human. They make mistakes, just like everyone else -- and this time, the Pittsburgh Penguins made them pay.

For the second straight game, the resilient Penguins rallied from a 2-1 deficit to earn a hard-fought 4-2 victory Thursday night that evened the Stanley Cup Final at two wins apiece. An uncharacteristic sequence by the Wings early in the second period -- while on the power play no less -- turned the game around and gave the Pens and their 17,132 fans all the momentum they would need.

The middle period began favorably for the Wings -- goalie Chris Osgood stoned Sidney Crosby on a backhand just 16 seconds in, and defenseman Brad Stuart scored his third of the playoffs on a slap shot from the right point 30 seconds later to give his team a 2-1 lead.

The Wings then had a golden opportunity to add to their lead when they were given back-to-back power-plays as Evgeni Malkin was called for hooking at 5:44 and Brooks Orpik was sent to the box for tripping at 7:43. But instead of extending their lead, the Wings took their foot off the pedal -- and paid the price when Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal took Mark Eaton's breakout pass and scored a spectacular shorthanded goal at 8:35 to tie the game and turn the momentum completely around.

"They were coming after us and we didn't really get the puck out or didn't hang on to the puck and show some poise. That shorthanded goal gave them a lot of momentum and energy and we didn't really respond to that," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "After that second goal, we didn't respond well and the game got away from us for a few minutes."

In a span of less than six minutes, the Wings went from a one-goal lead to a two-goal deficit. Fueled by turnovers, Sidney Crosby put Pittsburgh ahead at 10:34 and Tyler Kennedy scored again at 14:12.

Three goals, one lost game -- all stemming from a lost opportunity.

The Red Wings entered Game 4 third in the playoffs on the power play with a 25-percent success rate, but failed on all four of their chances. The Wings also allowed their first shorthanded goal of the playoffs after surrendering only four during the regular season.

"That's something we can't allow to happen, definitely not a shorthander," Wings forward Mikael Samuelsson said. "We can't allow something like that to happen. That was a big goal for them."

The shorthanded goal by Staal was the first for the Penguins in the playoffs.

Wings rookie defenseman Jonathan Ericsson also felt the momentum of the game change a bit after Staal scored.

"Of course, we're thinking about getting a goal ourselves (on the power play) and then they wind up getting one on us, so it's tough," Ericsson said. "But we still had power play time even after they scored and tried to make something out of it, but they had a solid PK."

Lidstrom doesn't believe his team was overly confident after taking a 2-1 lead and then receiving consecutive power-play opportunities. He felt the Penguins took advantage of turnovers and shoddy play by Detroit in the neutral zone.

"When we received the power-play chances, we were still trying to get another goal on the power play, but that goal from Staal gave them a lot of momentum," Lidstrom said. "He went wide and really powered to the net. I don't think we suffered a false sense of security and there wasn't any letdown. We never thought this would be easy."

Contact Mike Morreale at

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