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Back to 2008: Round 1 of Red Wings-Penguins

Lidstrom was captain for that run; the undercard featured Zetterberg vs. Crosby

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

Expectations are always going to be high for a player who is chosen No. 1 overall in the draft and for Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, they were even higher.

Crosby's talent had been a topic of conversation well before he made it to the NHL and he was recognized as a generational talent much as LeBron James was before he reached the NBA.

In the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, the Detroit Red Wings were considered to be a team on the decline in the new salary cap world, having not played in the Final since winning the Stanley Cup in 2002 with their loaded team of future Hall of Famers.

Nicklas Lidstrom was the team's 37-year-old captain and the leading scorers were the duo affectionately known as the Euro Twins, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

Then 29 and 27 respectively, Datsyuk and Zetterberg were challenged by the up-and-coming young Penguins, with Crosby, their 20-year-old captain and center Evgeni Malkin, who was only 21.

The Wings won the first two games at Joe Louis Arena in shutouts, 4-0 and 3-0, thanks to some solid goaltending from Chris Osgood.

The next two games were at Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena and the Penguins got their first win of the series there in Game 3, 3-2, with Crosby finally getting on the scoresheet with two goals.

But Lidstrom said the team did not mind playing in the unfriendly confines of the old Mellon Arena.

"I think we felt confident as a group playing on the road," Lidstrom said. "It didn't matter who we were matching up against, we could split Zetterberg and Datsyuk, put them on two different lines, you could play them together. We were confident we could beat teams even though we didn't have the last line change.

"We could still play solid defensively and wait for our chances, wait for our turns to score goals and I think that's what won us the Cup because we had that patience of being able to hang in games and finally win them."

You can watch Game 4 of the 2008 Final Saturday night on FOX Sports Detroit.

Marian Hossa scored the game's first goal, giving the Penguins the early lead, but the captain tied the game before the first period was over.

"We always had Tomas Holmstrom in front of the net," Lidstrom said. "It was so important to get a goal to tie it up instead of them having to score a second goal and being up 2-0 in the game. It was very key in that game to get that tying goal to kind of take us back into that game."

Things got quite dicey in the third when the Penguins had a two-man advantage with Kirk Maltby going into the box at 9:36 for hooking and Andreas Lilja joining him at 10:10 due to interference.

"I think we were so focused on not getting scored on," Lidstrom said. "It's very hard with the skilled players that they had out on the ice. You have to rely on good goaltending in a situation like that. Ozzie came up big for us. He came up with some big saves and we were able to take away lanes as much as we could, being only three players on the ice.

"But Ozzie really stepped up for us. They had some chances where I think the puck was lying in the crease just beside the net and we were all trying to get it out of there but they're whacking at it as well. Just the way we were able to focus on not giving them the wide open shots all the time, kind of give them some shots and kind of keep them on the outside."

During that penalty kill, it was Zetterberg who tied up Crosby's stick in front of the net to prevent him from an easy tap-in.

It was one of the great battles within the war of the series, Zetterberg denying Crosby, who came into the Final leading the playoffs in assists and tied for the lead in points.

One of the running jokes in the city of Detroit was that Crosby couldn't even visit the bathroom without finding Zetterberg already there.

As the Wings' most recent championship, there are likely more people who remember it.

Tell us your favorite memories from the 2008 Stanley Cup Final on Twitter at @DetroitRedWings or on Facebook.

Next week, FOX Sports Detroit will show two more classic Red Wings Stanley Cup Final games:

1. Friday, April 24: 1998 Stanley Cup Final Game 3, Red Wings at Capitals

2. Saturday, April 25: 2002 Stanley Cup Final Game 3, Red Wings at Hurricanes

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