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It's back to the basics for the Wings

by Lindsey Ungar / Detroit Red Wings
PITTSBURGH — Red Wings coach Mike Babcock owned up to the mistakes he and his team made in Game 3 against the Penguins.

“I’m from Saskatoon,” Babcock said matter-of-factly. “And that’s what you do.”

He said the shifts were too long. Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart all averaged over 50-seconds per shift.

Babcock wanted shifts at 35-seconds. Of his 18 skaters, only four came in under that mark.

Although none of the Pens’ goals came off of long Wings’ shifts, it was part of the reason Pittsburgh could build speed off the forecheck, which had gone dormant in the first two games if the Stanley Cup finals in Detroit.

Zetterberg got his coach’s message.

“I think one practice we had to skate the length of our shifts — I think it was in Minnesota,” he said. “We were bag skating for a minute for I think seven or eight times. And he said, ‘You can’t play like this.’ And we pretty much agreed. So, he’s been on us a few times over the year.”

Pittsburgh dominated the shot count for 20 minutes, which didn’t make Babcock very happy.

“If you're talking about the way it went at the start and all that, everything was perfect for us,” Babcock said. “Fifteen minutes into the game, we're out shooting them 9 1.”

But that’s when the tide turned. From that time until the point when Johan Franzen scored with just under five minutes into the second to cut the Penguins lead in half, Babcock’s team stats showed the Penguins taking 18 of their 24 shots.

Pittsburgh scored twice during that span, jumping out to a 2-0 lead with the Mellon Arena rocking. The Penguins fed off the momentum built during that time, riding it to a 3-2 win in Game 3.

“We had a little slow start,” Penguins forward Maxime Talbot said. “We talked about getting the first goal, and that was huge for us. And we got it, and it was a different game for us.”

The Wings’ first-unit power play wasn’t where it needs to be, which had Babcock calling out the five-man unit of Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Babcock said they weren’t retrieving the puck quick enough, not firing enough shots on net, turning pucks over and losing battles along the boards. The Wings are 2-for-19 on the power play against the Penguins in the series.

“Our top group is being a little too fine right now,” he said. “But they're real proud guys, and they're smart guys and they know — yesterday before the game, when we were going through the power play and none of the clips were them … They know.”

The Wings will look to build off a strong third period, where they spent the majority of time in Pittsburgh’s end, out-shooting the Pens, 16-5.

“We had some chances to tie the game up,” Lidstrom said. “That's something you want to build on. You want to carry it into Game 4 and take the good things with you. And I think that's one of the things we can take with us that third period where we played real hard.”

THURSDAY’S PLANS: Babcock and his players were secretive about their off-day plan on Thursday, simply noted it as a “team-activity.” They did not practice at Mellon, but were available to the media.

“Some quiet time,” goalie Chris Osgood said of the team’s plans. “And relax and come back (Friday) and be ready to practice. And then play a great game Saturday.”

HOMING IN ON HOMER: Holmstrom is used to taking a beating — that’s how he makes his living in the NHL.

Hal Gill and Gary Roberts took turns torturing Holmstrom, who fought back with the same ferocity — until late in the game.

Gill tripped Holmstrom cutting through the slot, turning Holmstrom into a human bowling bowl that crashed into the Pens’ net at 14:10 of the third.

The referees whistled to stop the play, but there was no penalty on Gill.

He didn’t play a single shift the rest of the game, even when the Red Wings had a late power play opportunity.

“I didn't see him this morning,” Babcock said. “After the game, he didn't feel too good.  The good thing is we have today to look at it and see how he is (Friday), and then we'll move ahead from there.”

Reports said that Holmstrom was limping out of Mellon after Game 3. Even if that was the case, Zetterberg didn’t seem to worry.

“He does that a lot of times,” Zetterberg chuckled.

MULE ALERT: Johan Franzen hasn’t looked like he missed six games.

“I thought it was the best sign in the game last night for us — the Mule was back,” Babcock said. “He was dominant for us.”

Franzen, who returned to the lineup in Game 2, had a one-man effort to score his playoff-leading 13th goal.

He bulled his from behind the red line all the way to the net. First, he beat Penguins forward Adam Hall to the outside, then he sidestepped defender Rob Scuderi on the inside. Franzen muscled the puck across the goal line, only stopping because the goal frame preventing his momentum from carrying all the way to back boards.

He finished a plus-1 in 19:03 of ice-time, picked up a penalty and six shots.

Basically, he was his old self — the unstoppable, unflappable Mule.

“He's missed a lot of hockey in the Dallas series, and he was back being his dominant self last night,” Wings center Kris Draper said. “He's so big and so strong. And it looked like he had that confidence back that he knew that he could take the puck to the net.”

Franzen now has 28 goals in his past 29 games.

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