Penguins 4 Red Wings 2
PITTSBURGH — Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby refused to let the Pittsburgh Penguins fall into another big hole.
The dynamic duo each had a goal and an assist on Thursday as the energized Penguins evened the Stanley Cup final with a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
Just days ago, they arrived home facing a big deficit in this championship series. They’ll head back to Detroit for Game 5 on Saturday with new life.
Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy had the other goals for Pittsburgh in Game 4 while Darren Helm and Brad Stuart replied for the Red Wings.
The real difference ended up being the play of Malkin and Crosby, who helped the Penguins overcome a 2-1 deficit for the second straight game. Pittsburgh started the series by falling into a two-game hole but everything is even now.
“We just kept at it,” said Staal. “We’re not going to change our game ever.”
Malkin and Crosby give the Penguins the kind of 1-2 punch that Detroit has been lacking in this series. The Wings again played without Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk, who appeared ready to return for Game 4 before electing to sit out.
The focus will once again be on his status heading into a crucial Game 5.
This is the first time the series has deviated from the pattern established by the teams in last year’s Stanley Cup final. The Penguins have been insisting that the loss to Detroit last spring was going to make them tougher this time around and they proved it with a pair of victories on home ice.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock downplayed talk that momentum in the series has shifted to the Penguins.
“Everyone talks about momentum. I’m a big believer that momentum is as good as the next day’s start,” Babcock said.
It could be argued that Pittsburgh’s victory in Game 4 was the most important for the franchise since Mario Lemieux last brought a Stanley Cup here in 1992.
The struggling Red Wings’ penalty killing unit failed another early test in this one. Niklas Kronwall was sent to the box for tripping just over a minute into the game and Malkin continued his torrid pace by scoring his 14th goal of the playoffs.
He was parked at the side of the goal and swiped the puck past a flailing Chris Osgood after Kris Letang’s point shot missed the net and bounced out to him.
It was the early goal the Penguins felt they badly needed. However, just as in Game 3, Detroit eventually took control as the period went on, creating all kinds of traffic in front of Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins goalie can’t be faulted for the first goal that got by him. Instead, the blame falls squarely on defenceman Rob Scuderi, who turned the puck over to Helm before the impressive Red Wings rookie roofed a shot at 18:19.
Another Pittsburgh player was at fault when Detroit went ahead 2-1. Bill Guerin was standing directly in front of Fleury when Stuart’s point shot beat him only 46 seconds into the second period.
With the mighty Wings ahead, a pall fell over the arena as Pittsburgh took consecutive penalties.
It didn’t last long.
Staal brought the building back to life by skating around Brian Rafalski and scoring short-handed on Osgood at 8:35. He had been quiet in this series but that effort turned them momentum back into his team’s favour.
Less than two minutes later, Crosby put the Penguins ahead 3-2 with his first goal of the series. He redirected a nice pass from Malkin behind Osgood and was promptly bowled over by an enthusiastic Letang immediately after.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Crosby deserved to score as he has played well in the series but hasn’t met with success on the scoresheet.
“We know he’s got scoring chances, we know he’s been in and around the net like he often is and has been throughout these playoffs,” Bylsma said.
It marked the first time in the last two post-seasons that Osgood allowed three or more goals in back-to-back games.
“I didn’t mind our team until we turned the puck over and gave up the short-handed goal and they had way more energy than us from that point on,” said Babcock. “We had a little push in the third, but not much.”
The Penguins just kept on coming, with Crosby serving as the middle man in a wonderful tic-tac-toe passing play that Kennedy finished at 14:12. The sarcastic chants of “Osgood! Osgood!” rained down from after one of the nicest goals you’ll see.
Detroit did all it could to try and mount a third-period comeback, but Fleury had an answer for everything. And with that, this series has shifted.