– There is no better example of a "must win" than what the Pittsburgh Penguins face in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight at Mellon Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio).
The Penguins' first home loss in these playoffs would put them in the unenviable position of being down 3-0 in the series with anyone and everyone dusting off those stories of the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders, the only NHL teams to rebound from three-game deficits.
"We have a lot of guys who are capable of scoring and making things happen," Sidney Crosby
said. "And our confidence is fine. We all believe in each other. Each guy believes in what they need to do. I don't think there's a question there. We know we're going to have to earn our chances, but I don't think there's a confidence issue."
Blanked in the first two games by the Red Wings, the Penguins need a couple of breaks to get back into the series. They are hoping that the raucous crowd at Mellon Arena will provide a needed lift after two disappointing losses in Detroit.
"Yeah, this is a big one," Crosby admitted. "We're at home, and we definitely want to make sure we don't give them the opportunity to go up 3-0 here, and be one game away. So we want to make sure that we're ready. And you know we're at home. We've played well. So I think we're pretty confident here – just want to make sure that the desperation is there."
Pittsburgh is 8-0 in this year's playoffs and has won its last 16 games at Mellon Arena.
"As good as the Red Wings are in their building, we are as good at home, too," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "And it's demanding to win on the road. It's demanding. We haven't lost a game in two months in our building. We feed from our crowd. It's tough to play on the road. We're going to be a tough team to play when we're at home.
"We addressed it with the players briefly before their optional practice (Tuesday), "Therrien said. "And we feel that our concentration's got to be on Game 3. That's all that matters to us right now. And after that, we win Game 3, but momentum could change."
The Wings have been nearly flawless in winning the first two games. Goalie Chris Osgood has yet to surrender a goal and has gone for long stretches without facing much in the way of Penguins' pressure. Pittsburgh didn't get its first shot in Game 2 until 12 minutes had been played. And with no goals over the first two games, one of the NHL's most fearsome offenses has been shackled.
"It's obviously frustrating," Crosby said. "You always want to score. And I think it's the nature of the Playoffs. You're not going to get a lot of chances, but when you do get them, you have to make sure you put them in.
"As far as strategy goes, I think it just comes out of execution," he said. "I said it before, but you just need to make sure when you get those chances, you bury them. And it's really what it comes down to. They're not out-chancing us by a whole lot, to be honest. We just need to make sure we put the puck in the net."
As he did following Game 2, Therrien continued to send a message to the officials that the Red Wings are getting away with obstructing his players.
"Well, honestly, I truly believe the first game, our young team was really nervous," Therrien said. "We fell behind early in the game (Monday) and this is a team that it's tough to generate offense with the obstruction that they're doing.
"But you know what, they're doing it the right way," Therrien said. "It's like there's a dotted line. Sometimes they'll cross it a little bit. And that goes with experience. It's tough to generate offense. And you need to score dirty goals. The tic-tac-toe play, sometimes it's going to happen. But most of the time you're going to put the puck at the net, and you're going to crash the net."
Ironically, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was in the same position as the Penguins back in 2003, when his Anaheim Ducks team was manhandled in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final in New Jersey. Coming home, the Ducks tied the series and took it to seven games.
"We had 11 days off," Babcock recalled. "I don't know if you remember, but we swept our series, and then New Jersey went seven against Ottawa and the League decided they didn't want to start on the long weekend. So we end up, I thought, being penalized for that at that time.
"The bottom line, just like their coach, their guys are going to try to do, is they say 'OK, we're a good team at home. We're 8-0 at home. Nothing's happening in this series as long as we hold serve,' kind of thing. And that's exactly what happened; suddenly the series was the best-of-three."
The Wings will not have the last change in Pittsburgh, but Babcock said that won't impact his plans in the least.
"No, we're going to play the way we play, regardless," Babcock said. "And so there's two trends of thought. I can get our guys on and off the ice all night long, if we want to do that. That's normally not what we do. What we'll do is we have, in our opinion, in the Draper line and Filppula line and Zetterberg line, lines that can play against anybody. We have two (defense) pairs that we're real comfortable with against anybody. If you look at the nine and the four guys, we'll just let them go.
"The other thing about it is you put Datsyuk and Zetterberg and Holmstrom and Rafalski and Lidstrom on the ice, they have to stop them, too. There's two sides to that."
Bottom line, the Penguins need to make something happen or face the unhappy prospect of a three-game deficit. A return home may well have an energizing impact on the Eastern Conference champs.
"I think we're always confident here," Crosby said. "It's been the great thing throughout the second half of the year in the Playoffs. We've played well here, and we've been a tough team to play against. So definitely when we come here we realize that we have an extra attacker almost out there, and it's great to have that confidence level at home."
But as Therrien noted, simply relying in the crowd's energy won't be enough.
"We need to generate a lot more offense than we did in the last two games," Therrien said. "That's not a secret. I mean, better puck support, attack with speed, making better decisions with the puck. We need to use our speed a lot more than we did. But in the meantime, they did a great job to take away our speed."
And, the Red Wings insist, their best is yet to come.
"We think we're playing hard," Babcock said. "We think we can be better. And we're going to try to be better. Just 'The Mule' (Johan Franzen) getting a game under his belt, should be a better hockey player the next game – and that should make us a better team."
a scary thought.
Author: Phil Coffey | NHL.com Editorial Director