Determined Penguins narrow Wings’ lead

It came down to determination for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Penguins 4 Red Wings 2

PITTSBURGH — It came down to determination for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Tied 2-2 after being dominated in the second period and facing an near-impossible series deficit, Sergei Gonchar scored a power play goal 10:29 into the third to lift the Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup final on Tuesday night.

The Red Wings still lead the best-of-seven series 2-1, but instead of falling behind 0-3, the Penguins will now try to even it up on home ice on Thursday night (CBC, 6 p.m.).

Maxime Talbot scored two goals, including an empty net marker with 57 seconds left to play, while Kris Letang also scored for Pittsburgh, while star centre Sidney Crosby got his first point of the series on Gonchar’s goal.

“When you have a guy like Gonch back there who is such a calming influence, you want to get him the puck,” said Crosby.

“It’s probably better when you come out of a bad second period like that and you’re still tied.

“It was important to respond with a big third period.”

Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and set up one by Johan Franzen for the Red Wings, who outshot the Penguins 29-21.

Pittsburgh had the lead in shots in the first two games, where goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury endured some heavy criticism for letting in questionable goals, but he was excellent as Detroit outshot the Pens 14-4 in the second frame but failed to score.

“They’re a great team and we’re lucky that Flower (Fleury) is there,” said Talbot.

“In the first two games he got criticized a lot, so I’m happy for him now.”

Pittsburgh came back to hold a 10-3 advantage in the third and got a man advantage when Detroit defenceman Jonathan Ericsson was sent off for interference.

“We needed to calm down and get back to our game,” said coach Dan Bylsma.

“We started good, built some momentum, the building was going, we had some chances and got the power play.

“The power play did an unbelievable job of winning puck battles, keeping it alive and giving Gonch the chance to rip that one home.”

The Penguins had the Detroit penalty kill team — the Wings only weak spot in the playoffs thus far — hemmed in its zone until Crosby and Evgeni Malkin teamed up to get Gonchar the puck at the point for a shot through heavy traffic.

Pittsburgh was 2-for-3 on the night with the man advantage and has three goals in its last four chances.

“They played a good third period,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “They played a good first 10 minutes, we took over for the next 30, the they got the call on Ericsson in the third and took over.

“They told us they were going to clamp down on (interference), but I’d seen four from one particular guy on their team prior to that never got called. But (the referees) are trying their best, just like the teams.”

Malkin got his third assist of the night on Gonchar’s goal and leads the playoffs with 33 points.

The Whiteout was on at Mellon Arena as nearly all of the sellout crowd of 17,132 wore the white T-shirts handed out at the door to boost the home team that came back from Detroit down 2-0 on a pair of 3-1 losses to open the series.

But instead of starting with a burst, the Penguins found themselves up against a checking wall thrown up by Detroit in the neutral zone and did not get a shot until nearly three minutes into the game.

Still, they managed to strike first as a weak clearing attempt was picked off at the Wings blue-line by Letang and Malkin slid a pass into the slot for a one-time blast by Talbot for a goal 4:48 into the game.

But only 1:31 later, Ville Leino came around the Pittsburgh net and, after his shot was stopped, blocked out Gonchar so Zetterberg could score from the right side.

Zetterberg’s cross-ice pass went off Matt Cooke’s stick right to Franzen for a power play goal at 11:33, but the Penguins got it back on a power play at 15:57 when Letang’s long shot from the left boards beat Osgood cleanly.

The Red Wings only got on the power play twice and were banging their sticks when Pittsburgh had six skaters on the ice for a long stretch and didn’t get called. But breaks often go to the home team.

“With six guys on the ice, we cycled the puck a bit — it was great,” Talbot said with a laugh.

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