When this Stanley Cup Final concludes, the Detroit Red Wings may reflect on a phenomenal 86-second stretch during the third period in Saturday night's Game 4 at Mellon Arena as the turning point.
A one-goal lead with a one-game lead in the series. Two men down against arguably the most potent offense in the National Hockey League.
With Kirk Maltby and Andreas Lilja in the penalty box, the Red Wings managed to shut down Sidney Crosby
& Co. during a two-man advantage for 1:26 in the third and held off the Pens for a 2-1 victory. Detroit now has an opportunity to win its fourth Stanley Cup in 11 seasons on home ice when it hosts Pittsburgh on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio).
Between some stellar goaltending from Chris Osgood (22 saves) and remarkable defensive play from the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings were able to keep the Pens from tying the game. Zetterberg single-handedly preserved the one-goal lead when he kept Crosby's stick on the ice on a cross-ice feed that would have left Crosby with three-quarters of the net to shoot at.
"That was the one thing we wanted to do a little better today," Zetterberg said. "We wanted to have a little bit more poise in our own end. We wanted to make some good decisions down there, and I think we did. They got an opportunity to tie up the game with the 5-on-3 in the end.
"We played good. We tried to keep them outside and tried to be in the shooting lanes. And when they got a puck through, Ozzie made a save."
While it may have been the most important shift of his professional career, Zetterberg wouldn't go that far. Nonetheless, the Selke Trophy candidate was pleased that all the time spent during practice on such a situation paid off in the biggest game of the season to date.
"They had a great opportunity to tie it up," Zetterberg said. "It's a challenge to play against such good players, especially when you're down two guys. They have a lot of room. You practice a lot on it during the year, and it's fun to have a chance to do it in a game."
Clearly, Detroit's veteran experience played a huge role in its ability to kill off such a long two-man advantage. Once Lilja went off for interference just 34 seconds after Maltby was whistled for hooking, the Red Wings knew they were in for a battle.
And they didn't panic.
"When it happened, we just said, 'Let's get this done. Let's find a way to kill this penalty,'" Detroit forward Kris Draper said. "We won a couple of big draws and made some huge blocks, and Ozzie made a couple of great saves. If you're going to win at this time of year, that's what you have to do. It was a huge point in the hockey game for us."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was thrilled with the way his team improved defensively as the game progressed. After allowing a power-play goal to Marian Hossa just 2:51 into the game, Detroit killed off five straight penalties -- including the lengthy 5-on-3 midway through the third period.
"In the first period, they had power plays and they tic-tac-toed the puck around," Babcock said. "We were on our heels. We were too cautious early and giving too much respect. I thought as the game went on, we did a better job limiting their time and space."
Zetterberg had a lot to do with that, especially when the super Swede somehow denied Crosby of what would have been his third goal in two games.
"You know, I've been telling people for three years how good Zetterberg is," Babcock said. "This isn't a surprise to me. He's just a conscientious, good two-way player. So is Datsyuk. But we have a lot of good players."
And their efforts on Saturday night have them one win away from a Stanley Cup championship. It also made Detroit the first team to win in Pittsburgh this postseason.
"We said we wanted the split, and we got it," Draper said. "Now it's up to us to have an unbelievable game in Game 5. We're going home with a great opportunity. Anytime in professional sports, when you get a chance to win the fourth one, you know it's going to be the toughest." Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Staff Writer