The Bear Cave

June 10, 2009 7:10 AM

Penguins Survive to Force Game Seven

Despite two strong performances on home ice during games three and four, critics were seriously questioning the Pittsburgh Penguins after the 5-0 drubbing they suffered in game five on Sunday. Fans at Mellon Arena might not have much remaining in terms of finger nails, but the hometown Penguins were able to get the job done in game six. Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead by the early stages of the third period, and the defense managed to hold off the Red Wings in the closing seconds for a dramatic 2-1 victory.

Following game five's disappointment, the Penguins knew that they wanted to get off to as strong of a start as possible in front of their home crowd. However, Henrik Zetterberg nearly gave the Red Wings the lead, when Sergei Gonchar cheated over to the boards to place a hit on Daniel Cleary. Zetterberg went 0-for-2 on the play, failing on the shot and earning a penalty for goaltender interference. The Pittsburgh power play went to work immediately, putting Chris Osgood and the Detroit defense under siege for the rest of the period. The Penguins ended up outshooting the Red Wings 12-3 during the first 20 minutes of play, but somehow, the visitors survived with the game still scoreless.

Pittsburgh didn't need much time to end the scoring drought in the second period. Rob Scuderi backhanded a Marc-Andre Fleury save around the right wing boards to Tyler Kennedy at the top of the circle. Kennedy poked the puck ahead to Jordan Staal, who also used a quick nudge of the puck to get past the Detroit defense. That led to a 2-on-1 rush with Staal and Matt Cooke for the Penguins, as well as the unfortunate Jonathan Ericsson for the Red Wings. Staal kept the puck to himself as he dashed down the right side of the ice, snapping a shot on net that Osgood turned aside. The rebound kicked back out to the 20-year old, who made sure not to miss on opportunity number two. Staal's second tally of the series came just 51 seconds into the middle frame.

The second period was played much more evenly than the first, with the shots on goal being separated by only three. In the grand scheme of things, the Penguins did have the better period, picking up 12 of those shots to Detroit's nine, while netting the lone goal. The Red Wings did come close with around two minutes left in the second, but Henrik Zetterberg's shot rang off of the left post.

In the early stages of the third period, the Penguins extended their lead to two. Ruslan Fedotenko won a battle for possession along the right wing boards, cycling a pass below the goal line to Maxime Talbot. Talbot fended off Jonathan Ericsson, while tapping a backhander along to Tyler Kennedy. With both Detroit defenders converging on Talbot, Kennedy had extra time and space to bring the puck out to the front. The second-year forward found daylight, knocking a shot past Osgood's glove side.

Less than three minutes later, the Red Wings got on the scoreboard. Kris Draper curled around the back of the Pittsburgh cage, tossing a pass out to Nicklas Lidstrom at the right point. Lidstrom tapped the puck across the blueline, setting up defensive partner Jonathan Ericsson for a shot. Ericsson had his slap shot stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury, but the velocity and location of the blast created a juicy rebound. Draper quickly found his way to the loose puck, lifting a shot over the Penguins' netminder before he could recover. Jiri Hudler was also in the slot area at the time, creating havoc on the defense.

At that point, the momentum shifted to the visitors. Shortly after seeing his team allow the goal, Evgeni Malkin found himself in the penalty box for cross checking. The Penguins were successful on the penalty kill, but were right back in the same situation at the 12:40 mark of the third with Bill Guerin in the sin bin. In what would be a repetitive theme in the final period, Fleury and the Pittsburgh defense came up huge, allowing Guerin to escape without any harm being done on the scoreboard.

In case the first 58 minutes didn't do it for the spectators, the final two certainly dropped some jaws. With just under two minutes remaining in regulation, Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg won a defensive zone face-off, allowing Pavel Datsyuk to spring Daniel Cleary past Brooks Orpik and in on a breakaway. Cleary faked to his forehand, then went to his backhand, but got denied by Fleury.

In the closing seconds, Fleury needed a little bit of help to complete the victory. That's when Rob Scuderi earned his stripes, skating back to rob Johan Franzen on two golden opportunities. Scuderi wasn't given one of the stars at the end of the game, but his play in the defensive zone was a major reason why the Penguins were able to win game six.

The longest 13 seconds of most lives in the arena finally ticked away, with the Penguins forcing a seventh and deciding game.

Along with his defense, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant in goal for Pittsburgh. After getting pulled in game five, Fleury stopped 25 of 26 shots for the victory. Chris Osgood played a stellar game as well for the Red Wings, making 29 saves on 31 shots in the loss.

With the series now tied at three, the scene shifts back to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for game seven on Friday.

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