2008-2009 Stanley Cup Final

#4 East – Pittsburgh Penguins

#2 West – Detroit Red Wings

GAME 1: DET 3, PIT 1

GAME 2: DET 3, PIT 1

GAME 3: PIT 4, DET 2

GAME 4: PIT 4, DET 2

GAME 5: June 6 @ DET, 8pm, NBC,CBC,RDS

GAME 6: June 9 @ PIT, 8pm, NBC,CBC,RDS

*GAME 7: June 12 @ DET, 8pm, NBC,CBC,RDS

* If necessary; All times Eastern

The Pittsburgh Penguins did something that has rarely been seen this season: they made the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings appear pedestrian. Within six minutes during the second period of Thursday’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins exploded for 3 goals, including one from captain Sidney Crosby and alternate captain Evgeni Malkin, leading the flightless fowl to a 4-2 victory and evening the series heading into Saturday’s game 5 in Detroit, MI.

In the first period, with Niklas Kronwall in the penalty box for a 2-minute tripping infraction, the Penguins made the most of their early power play. In the middle of a change from first to second power play unit, defenseman Sergei Gonchar was able to keep the puck deep in the Detroit zone. Jordan Staal was able to corral the puck and battle in the corner to the left of Detroit netminder Chris Osgood. Staal was able to send the puck to the high slot, where defenseman Kris Letang took a one time shot that bounced off Osgood. Malkin, who was on an extended shift, corralled the rebound to the right of Osgood and poked the puck in behind the scrambling goaltender, putting the home team up 1-0.

On the other side of the ice, Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular, but not perfect. Fleury faced nineteen of a total of thirty-nine shots in the first period, the most shots per period for the Red Wings all evening.

Darren Helm, who picked off a clearing attempt by Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi, sent one of those shots towards Fleury – and beat him – at 18:19 of the first period, evening the score at one a piece.

Brad Stewart opened the second period with a goal, his third of the post season, at 0:46 of the second period. Stewart used a double screen – by Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar and Bill Guerin – to obscure the vision of marc-Andre Fleury and shoot the puck past the Pens netminder.

What would usually be a back breaking goal was shrugged off by Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma his Penguins, even when faced with a 3-on-5 shorthanded situation, the Penguins stood tall and turned a bad situation into something great.

Evgeni Malkin was sitting in the penalty box for a 2-minute hooking call. Before the end of his penalty, defenseman Brooks Orpik was given a 2-minute tripping penalty, putting the Penguins in the precarious situation of having only three skaters on the ice against Detroit’s high powered power play unit. The Penguins were able to kill off Malkin’s penalty. As he shot out of the penalty box, he was able to force a breakaway situation. While Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom was able to stop Malkin from taking a clean shot, the momentum had already shifted and the idea of taking a chance on the penalty kill was in the Penguins’ minds.

Moments later, after Penguins D-man Mark Eaton chipped a Detroit dump in to Maxime Talbot, Talbot fed a streaking Jordan Staal, who skated straight down the middle of the ice, splitting the defense of Norris trophy candidate Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Staal lowered his shoulder, went from back hand to forehand, and poked the puck past Chris Osgood for the first Penguins shorthanded goal since 1992.

Two minutes later, after the penalties were killed off, Dan Bylsma went with a line of Ruslan Fedotenko, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin. This overloaded line ended up leading a two-on-one charge. Malkin made a cross ice pass that was blocked, which came right back to him, and he once again tried to get it across the ice. The pass made it to the waiting stick of Sidney Crosby, who scored his first goal of the Stanley Cup Final.

Four minutes later, Crosby factored in as the primary assist on a beautiful tic-tac-toe play which had the puck going from Penguins LW Tyler Kennedy to Chris Kunitz to Crosby, who then one-time passed it to Kennedy on the doorstep of the goal. Osgood, who had completely slid out of place, had no chance to make the stop, as Kennedy threw the puck into a vacant cage, for the fourth and final goal of the game for the Penguins.

Neither Detroit nor Pittsburgh scored in the final regulation period and the Penguins would hold on for a 4-2 victory.

Fatigued Red Wings
One very obvious thing that did show in the final period was fatigue on the part of the Detroit Red Wings, particularly Henrik Zetterberg, who has shadowed Sidney Crosby throughout the first four games of the series.

Time on ice, by game

Game 1
Nicklas Lidstrom – 24:07
Brian Rafalski – 21:59
Niklas Kronwall – 23:11
Henrik Zetterberg – 22:48

Game 2
Lidstrom – 23:20
Rafalski – 21:05
Kronwall – 21:55
Zetterberg – 23:18

Game 3
Lidstrom – 26:40
Rafalski – 21:58
Kronwall – 18:06
Zetterberg – 24:19

Game 4
Lidstrom – 24:40
Rafalski – 20:51
Kronwall – 23:47
Zetterberg – 20:58

The Return of Pavel Datsyuk

The biggest positive for the Red Wings will be the return of all-world centerman Pavel Datsyuk. The 30-year-old three-time All Star, three time Lady Byng trophy recipient, 2008 Selke trophy winner, and 2009 finalist for the Hart trophy has not played since Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against Chicago due to blocking a shot in the foot. Datsyuk has been listed as “day-to-day” with a “bruised foot”. Speculation is that he has been nursing a broken bone. While he has not been able to skate as well as he should, he will be wearing his heart on his sweater and drag himself out onto the ice to make a difference.

Datsyuk’s return does multiple things for the Red Wings. His defensive prowess allows him and the line he will be on to match up with Evgeni Malkin, or he could switch with Zetterberg and cover Crosby and Zetterberg cover Malkin. His offensive prowess will also be a great asset to bring back to the fold, particularly for the struggling Marian Hossa, who could stand to use a few good feeds from his all-world centerman.

The real question is: how well will Datsyuk be able to skate? Will he play center, or be forced to play wing due to his foot causing an inability to skate/keep up with the action? We will find out on Saturday night at 8:00 PM ET.

Game 4 – Three Stars of the Night
1. PIT G Marc-Andre Fleury
2. PIT C Sidney Crosby
3. PIT C Evgeni Malkin