– Red Wings defensemen Niklas Kronwall
and Brad Stuart
received a lot of recognition coming into this Stanley Cup finals for being big and physical on the blueline.
Tonight in Game 2, they showed some versatility with their offensive prowess.
Stuart scored the first goal, which gave the Wings early momentum that eventually carried the Red Wings to a 3-0 win Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
His shot from the top of the circle managed to hit Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, and bounce over the Penguins’ netminder to give Stuart his first goal of the playoffs.
“I kind of saw that I was going to have some time,” said Stuart of his game-winning goal. “I just tried to buy some time for our guys to get it in front. They did a great job of getting there and creating a screen and it found its way into the back of the net.”
The defense is playing so well, that in two games, not a single puck has gotten past Chris Osgood. Pittsburgh has only managed to get 41 shots past the stingy Wings’ defensemen in the first two games combined.
Detroit, meanwhile, has fired 70 shots at Fleury, and seen seven go in. And in tonight’s game, the Red Wings had a 2-0 lead before Pittsburgh managed their first shot on goal.
Meanwhile, Kronwall’s big hits keep coming. In Game 1, he broke the nose of Pens’ winger Ryan Malone on a hit delivered while on a penalty kill. In Game 2, Kronwall came out hitting again, taking on Jarkko Rutuu early in the first period to get the home crowd buzzing.
“You always have to look around and see where your teammates are on the ice,” said Kronwall. “If you have backup, I think it’s a good chance to step up.”
Adding to the magic for Stuart was a pass out of the zone in the third period that found Johan Franzen
, back in the lineup for the first time in six games. Franzen then found Valtteri Filppula
who skated in on a delayed penalty to score the games third goal on a breakaway shot he threw past the stretched out Fleury.
Stuart was given an assist on the play, giving him two points on the night. That 3-0 lead knocked the wind out of the Penguins, who now find themselves in a 2-0 series hole heading back to the Steel City for Game 3 on Wednesday.
Both Kronwall and Stuart were on the ice for all three Detroit goals, making them the center of the action in hockey’s biggest stage.
“All year long we’ve done a pretty good job defensively,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We have committed people that way, and we feel we have a pretty good plan, and our plan is simple. We like to play offense. So the faster you play defense, the more time you have the puck.”