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Power play tips Game 3 in Pens' favor

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
PITTSBURGH – For nearly three quarters of a third-period power play, the Pittsburgh Penguins kept the puck in the offensive zone with constant pressure on the Red Wings’ net.

That incredible pressure led to the Penguins’ game-winning goal when defenseman Sergei Goncher blistered a point shot past a screened Chris Osgood. The goal – the Pens’ second on the power play – lifted them to a 4-2 win and got them back into the Stanley Cup finals series. Detroit leads the best-of-seven series, 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for Thursday night at Mellon Arena.

With Jonathan Ericsson in the penalty box for interference, the Penguins’ big guns came to life beginning with the face-off deep in the Red Wings’ zone.

For 83-seconds, the Pens held onto the puck, cycling it around the Wings’ zone.

“They had us hemmed in,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I don't know how long – couldn't get our sticks on it.”

As far as the goal, Osgood didn’t have much of a chance on it with Pens forward Bill Guerin camped in front of the crease and screening the Wings’ goalie.

“I don’t think Osgood saw my shot until the last minute and it was a great effort from everybody to control the puck,” Goncher said.

Through two periods, it was the visiting team that was on the offensive, out-shooting Pittsburgh, 26-11. But for the last half of the final period, it was all Penguins, who held a 10-3 shot-advantage in the third.

“They came out with a good push,” Babcock said. “They got the power play there with the call on Ericsson, and at that point they took over.”

The Pens’ two power-play goals came on three advantages. The Pens, who scored on their only power play opportunity in Game 2, have successfully converted on three of their past four chances.

“The first half of the third was a let down for us,” Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said. “They were desperate. They knew it was all or nothing for them.”

Still, the Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom believes the Wings can do better at limiting the Pens’ power play efficiency.

“I think we have to try to do better in the lanes,” he said. “I thought we were a little too deep. So play the position a little bit better out there.”

Late in the first period, the Penguins escaped a sure too-many-men penalty when all four on-ice officials never recognized the Pittsburgh infraction.

For a good 20-25 seconds the Pens got away with the additional player on the ice. The Penguins finally noticed their mistake when defenseman Rob Scuderi hustled off.

Yeah, we all saw it,” said Letang of the six men on ice. “It was a really sneaky play, but we didn’t have any luck in the first two plays. We’ve got to create our own luck.”

While the Pens didn’t score then, moments later Dan Cleary was whistled for a holding penalty and Pens defenseman Kris Letang scored on the ensuing power play.

Mikael Samuelsson had a chance to break a 2-2 tie in the second period, but his shot clanged off a goalpost. Following a neutral zone turnover by Pens forward Ruslan Fedotenko, Samuelsson picked up the loose puck and skated in alone on Marc-Andre Fleury before wristing a snap shot that beat the Pens goalie on his stick side and clanged off the left post.

The Penguins appeared to be energized by their home crowd, but nobody seemed more pumped up then Chris Kunitz.  The former Ferris State Bulldog had 11 hits in Game 3, six more then any other player.  The closest on the Wings roster was Darren Helm, with four.

Kunitz helped the Penguins outhit the Wings 36-17 in Game 3.  That number is drastically different from Games 1 and 2, when the Wings outhit the Penguins 77-72. 

Guerin said that the atmosphere in Mellon Arena helped motivate his team.

“This is a great building. I heard one of the players the other day talking, ‘all the buildings are great in playoff time but the fans seem to ramp it up’. This is one of the great ones in particular and we enjoy playing here. It’s a great atmosphere and we love it. … You feed off of that. You don’t want to let your fans down. … Anyone who says the home team doesn’t feed off their fans is a liar.”

MALKIN BURSTS ONTO SCENE: The Wings held the postseason’s leading scorer Evgeni Malkin to two points in Games 1 and 2.  In Game 3, it was a different story, as Malkin had three assists in the 4-2 Pittsburgh victory.

“He plays really well,” Lidstrom said.  “He’s good with the puck. On the power plays it’s tough to put pressure on him.”

The Wings took control of the game shots-wise in the second period, firing 14 shots to Pittsburgh’s four.  But that all changed in the third period, when the Penguins outshot the Wings 10-3.  Some of the Pittsburgh players credited coach Dan Bylsma with calming them down during the second intermission.

Bylsma said that he told his team to play the same game they have played in Mellon Arena all season.

“Well, we talked after the second,” the Penguins’ coach said.  “We didn't have a very good second period. They were very good in the second. We needed to calm down and get back to our game. And we've played it for 40?plus games here. We need to make sure we get back to it, and go out there and play the third that way. We did a good job of starting. And build momentum with that, the building was going, and we had some chances and got the power play.”

 Red Wings intern Mike Caples contributed to this report.

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