The Bear Cave

June 5, 2009 7:33 AM

Penguins Defend Home Ice, Evening Series 2-2

What was once a best-of-seven series over the weekend has now turned into a best-of-three to determine which team will win the 2009 Stanley Cup. After two frustrating losses in Detroit, the Pittsburgh Penguins avoided the dreaded 0-3 hole with a 4-2 victory on home ice Tuesday night. In game four, the Penguins were at it again, evening the series with three unanswered goals in the second period for another 4-2 win at Mellon Arena.

Looking to carry as much momentum from Tuesday into the fourth game, Pittsburgh was given a tremendous opportunity early on. Niklas Kronwall was whistled for hooking only 72 seconds into the contest, putting the Penguins on the man advantage. Although it took into the second minute of the power play to produce, a hometown bounce put the hosts on the board. Evgeni Malkin dug the puck out of the corner, hitting Jordan Staal with a pass in the low slot. Chris Osgood turned Staal's shot aside, knocking the rebound out to Kris Letang in the high slot. Letang's attempt went wide, but the rebound kicked hard off of the end boards to Malkin. Before Osgood could return to his post, Malkin had deposited the goal.

Despite the fact that it wasn't showing on the scoreboard, Detroit in control for the better part of the opening stanza, outshooting the Penguins 19-11. Marc-Andre Fleury was doing his part to keep the Penguins in the lead, until a costly mistake from a teammate evened the score with 1:41 remaining. Rob Scuderi chased down a loose puck in the left corner of his defensive end. Rather than putting a pass off of the boards, Scuderi tried to send a pass up the middle. Darren Helm pounced on the mistake, intercepting the pass, and ripping a wrist shot over Fleury's left shoulder from the dot.

Less than one minute into the second period, the Red Wings were able to build on the tying goal by taking their first lead of the evening. Brian Rafalski sent a long lead pass up the ice for Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg skated over the blueline, before curling all the way around the back of the Pittsburgh cage. At the end of his route, Zetterberg tossed a pass back to Brad Stuart at the right point. Using a pair of defenders as a screen, Stuart beat Fleury with a slap shot that he likely never saw.

As the midway part of the game approached, the momentum pendulum took an enormous swing toward the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik were called for back-to-back penalties, forcing the home team to kill off four straight minutes of power play time for Detroit. Not only were they successful in doing that, but they also netted a shorthanded goal in the process to tie the game at two. Mark Eaton chipped the puck up the right wing boards to Maxime Talbot. Talbot looked to the middle, finding Jordan Staal for an outlet pass in center ice. Staal got a step on Brian Rafalski, skating hard into the offensive zone. The Pittsburgh forward carried the puck in on his backhand, before switching to his forehand for a low snap shot on Osgood.

Shortly after Orpik's penalty had expired, Pittsburgh lifted the roof off of Mellon Arena, taking the lead back. Darren Helm had his pass back to Brad Stuart tipped by Evgeni Malkin, forcing Stuart to get a shot off as quickly as possible. Malkin got in the shooting lane, blocking the pass, and starting a 2-on-1 break with Sidney Crosby. For rookie Jonathan Ericsson, defending a 2-on-1 with those two was likely a nightmare. Malkin carried the puck in on the right side, before saucering a pass over to Crosby, who finished the play on the left side of the crease. After scoring the goal, Crosby was promptly tackled by teammate Kris Letang, clearly showing just how exciting playoff hockey can be.

At that point, the Red Wings elected to use their timeout, trying to slow down the Penguins' attack. The timeout was successful for a few minutes, but with 5:48 left in the middle frame, Pittsburgh added a fourth tally to the scoreboard on a gorgeous display of passing. Tyler Kennedy's hustle into the offensive zone forced Henrik Zetterberg to turn the puck over with a backhander to Chris Kunitz. Kunitz snapped a cross-ice pass over to Sidney Crosby, who barely had the puck on his stick, before firing a pass to Kennedy in the low slot. With Osgood still moving from side to side, Kennedy buried a shot into the top part of the net.

Detroit put a solid effort together during the game's final 20 minutes, outshooting the Penguins 11-9. However, this game was decided in the second period, as Pittsburgh went on to the 4-2 win.

For the fourth consecutive game, the busiest netminder got the satisfaction of earning the victory. On this night, that man was Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 37 saves on 39 shots for Pittsburgh. Chris Osgood played well on the other end, but came up short after stopping 27 of 31 shots for the Red Wings.

With four games in the books, the only thing we know is that these two teams really enjoy playing on home ice. On Saturday night, the series shifts back to Detroit for game five. Will the Red Wings improve on their 10-1 record at home during the playoffs, or will the Penguins ride the momentum into the first road win of the series? Stay tuned, the best has yet to come!

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