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Once again, home ice pays for home team

by Lindsey Ungar / Detroit Red Wings
PITTSBURGH — Go ahead, try and figure it out.

In Game 4, the Red Wings looked very un-Cup-worthy, with a second-period collapse leading to a 4-2 Pittsburgh win.

Maybe, just maybe, the Penguins were a match for the Red Wings this year.

Not quite.

In Game 5, Pavel Datsyuk's return sparked Detroit to a 5-0 shellacking, and it looked as if the series had started to resemble the kids-against-the-veterans hype. The Penguins had their last stand, and Nicklas Lidstrom would raise the Cup following Game 6 in Pittsburgh for the second straight postseason.


But in Game 6, the Red Wings had no tape-to-tape passes. No coveted puck luck. And certainly no domination. A much different result from last postseason – a flight back to Detroit for Game 7 following a strange 2-1 loss.

Each home team has won the first six games of the Stanley Cup finals.

“We have to put this behind us,” Wings forward Kirk Maltby said. “It's over and done with. Now we go back to the Joe. It doesn’t guarantee us anything, but we'll have our home crowd and it's up to us to play our best game.''

Halfway through the game, with the Penguins up 1-0 on Jordan Staal’s goal, Pittsburgh was tripling Detroit in shots, 21-7. Those stats didn’t lie — Chris Osgood was the solo campaigner for the Conn Smythe Trophy. While his teammates committed error after error, Osgood stayed focused with stop after stop, none more critical than back-to-back saves on Ruslan Fedotenko and Evgeni Malkin with under 40-seconds left in the second period.

But even Osgood buckled. With Tyler Kennedy eyeing a pass behind the net, the Wings' goalie crouched down, searching for a puck. Kennedy found space over Osgood’s glove to put Pittsburgh up 2-0 at 5:35 of the third.

But just as soon as Game 7 seemed a foregone conclusion, Kris Draper tallied his first of the playoffs less than three minutes later.

“We expected them to play the way they did,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We didn’t capitalize on our chances. When we got that first goal, we gained some of the momentum back and I thought we played a good enough game from there to get a second goal.”

That second goal never came, even though Detroit outshot Pittsburgh 14-7 in the third had two power play opportunities. In the final two minutes, Dan Cleary couldn’t convert a breakaway and Johan Franzen couldn’t get the puck past defenseman Rob Scuderi.

"They had desperation," Wings forward Darren Helm said. "They played hard from the start. It took us until the third period to get going."

Not good enough for the Cup in Game 6. But Game 7?

If the flip-flopping of the series continues, the Wings are up.

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