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Wings take first loss of Final in stride

by Brian Compton

Even though his team did not allow a goal in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, Detroit head coach Mike Babcock knew that his team would be in for a fight when the series moved to Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena.
Mike Babcock on Detroit's game 3 loss
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PITTSBURGH – Nothing is ever easy.

Never in a million years did the Detroit Red Wings believe they would play the entire Stanley Cup Final without allowing a goal. Never in a million years did they believe the Pittsburgh Penguins would just roll over for them after dropping the first two games in Motown.

Nope, the Red Wings knew that at some point the Penguins would get on the scoreboard. Given their success at Mellon Arena over the past three months, nobody's really surprised that the Pens assured everyone of a return trip to Detroit next Monday night.

First things first, though. There's a Game 4 to be played in the Steel City on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio), when the Red Wings will attempt to give themselves a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice.

Considering the way they played in Wednesday's 3-2 loss, the Red Wings aren't expecting to alter the game plan. They peppered Marc-Andre Fleury early and late in Game 3, as they jumped out to a 9-1 edge in shots in the first before recording 16 shots in the third.

"It's never that easy, no matter what everybody thinks," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Thursday morning. "It's just not like that. I thought last game they had better puck luck than they had in our building. It didn't bounce to them in our building. Sometimes, I think we think there's a bigger separation than it is. The games at the end in our building weren't like the game in the end last night. They were done. Last night's game was still available right until the very end."
Given the rocking atmosphere from the start of Game 3, it was especially impressive how the Red Wings were able to control the tempo in the early portion of the contest. Fleury was forced to make several key saves in the first 10 minutes before the Pens got things going late. Sidney Crosby scored Pittsburgh's first goal of the series with 2:35 remaining in the opening period.

"We've been a good team all year," Babcock said. "If you were at the game last night, I don't think the rink was tilted or we weren't in the game. We gave up 24 shots and lost on the road. And if you go through our whole year, when we lose on the road we give up 22 shots. That's life."

With Wednesday's loss, the focus now shifts to how the Red Wings will respond. In the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they allowed a 2-0 series lead to the Nashville Predators slip away before winning in six games. In the Western Conference Finals, they took a 3-0 lead on the Dallas Stars and then dropped back-to-back games.

The hope for Detroit is that it has learned from past experiences, although it was hardly blown out of the building in Game 3. Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom is confident that Wednesday's loss hasn't rattled the club.

"You have to win four games," Lidstrom said. "It's not over after you're up 2-0 or 2-1. You have to have that mentality that you have to stick with it for four wins. And whether it's if you win four straight or if you have to find ways to come back after a loss, that's something we can learn from the first series (against Nashville).

"It's not going to be easy. They're a very good team over there. And we know that."

In need of some rest, neither team skated on Thursday. With Game 4 slated for Saturday night, the Red Wings were prepared to take advantage of the off-day by doing some team bonding away from the rink.

Sometimes, it's better to just get away.

"We have an extra day here now," Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "Today, we just will relax and try to think about something else (other) than hockey. Tomorrow, we will come back here and we will have a good skate and go over our game plan again and get focused, ready to go for Saturday."

And should the Red Wings be able to come away with a victory, they will pull to within one victory of their fourth championship in 11 years. If not, it will mark the third time this postseason that they've allowed a multiple-game series lead to slip away.

Nobody ever said it was easy.

"It's a grind … it goes forever," Babcock said. "It just never seems to end. It's so interesting about that people talk about the playoffs are long. It's not for lots of teams. It's like one week and done. But when you're real fortunate and you've got a good team like Pittsburgh does or like we do, it gets to go for a long period of time."

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