Pittsburgh showed the hockey world Tuesday night that they will not go down lightly, winning a pivotal game 3 and cutting the Red Wings series lead in half.
The 2009 Stanley Cup Finals are following the same trend of the 08 finals when Detroit won both games in Detroit, then lost game 3 in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh is hopeful game 4 doesn’t follow the trend from last years finals. What the Penguins have now is confidence that they can beat the Red Wings.
Even after losing both games in Detroit, the Penguins remained confident heading into game 3 but there was this vibe that it didn’t matter how well they played, Detroit would find a way to win.
Pittsburgh gets strong performances from key role players
Pittsburgh got strong contributions from key players such as Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar, Marc Andre Fleury but it was the performance of their role players which prevailed them to a 4-2 win.
On the scoring end, Max Talbot added two goals and the Penguins got some much needed scoring from their back end, getting goals from Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang.
Pittsburgh’s third line of Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy which came into the game with a plus minus rating of -18, played their best game of the series.
Matt Cooke set the tone early and was physical registering 5 hits and Tyler Kennedy did some good things, creating offensive opportunities which has been rare since the Philadelphia series.
Jordan Staal was not solid on draws (4-for-13, 31.0%) but his play was improved. He showed confidence in the offensive zone and was not rushing pucks which is a common theme with him when the opposition closes on him.
Bylsma makes much needed adjustments
One key adjustment Dan Bylsma made in game 3 was getting the pairing of Rob Scuderi/Hal Gill off of Sidney Crosby’s line.
Bylsma showed a much stronger emphasis in game 3 on having a puck moving defenseman with Crosby’s line. It was a move that has been needed for sometime.
Bylsma was also much more efficient on his
line combinations. He played Crosby, Malkin together at times and I liked how he started the third period with Jordan Staal centering Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz
Momentum swing in the second period
Marc Andre Fleury gave up two suspect goals in the first period and there was a lot of concern that it was going to be a long night for Fleury.
Fleury responded putting aside 14 shots in the second period and late in the second period, the Penguins survived a Red Wings surge in what looked like was going to be a situation where the Red Wings go up 3-2 and that’s the game.
Fleury gave his hockey team a chance to win tonight and he will have to do the same throughout the rest of the series. Another performance like game 1 or 2, and the Red Wings will be repeating as Champions.
There is no room for errors from Fleury when the Penguins still face a daunting task of winning three of four games from the Wings.
Playing physical has its consequences at times
The Penguins were very physical against the Red Wings. Playing physical is how the Ducks always give the Red Wings problems and it is the blueprint on how to beat them.
Chris Kunitz led the Penguins hit parade with 11 hits and Matt Cooke, Brooks Orpik each added 5 hits each.
The Penguins need to be physical the rest of the series like they were in game 3 but against the Red Wings, you cannot be overly physical and running out of position.
This happened on Henrik Zetterberg’s 1st period goal when Brooks Orpik was out of position trying to put a hit on Johan Franzen who was in between the blueline and the top of the right circles.
The breakdown led to a two-on-one down low and Zetterberg buried one past Fleury.
Pittsburgh has to pick their spots wisely or Detroit will put the puck in the back of their net.
Malkin increases playoff points lead
Evgeni Malkin had three assists to give him 33 points in the playoffs and increase his lead over Sidney Crosby (29pts) to four points.
Crosby had another strong performance, especially on draws 63% but he is not buying pucks that he was against Washington and Philadelphia.
Penguins establishes net presence
Pittsburgh went over a lot of tape on their off day and Bylsma wanted the team to establish a net presence in front of Chris Osgood.
Getting traffic in front of the net is the key to beating Osgood and Pittsburgh was finally able to establish a consistent net presence in game 3.
Bill Guerin provided a screen in front of Osgood on Gonchar’s game winner.
* Pittsburgh will hold an optional practice tomorrow.
Power Play 3-for-6 in Finals
As deadly as the Red Wings power play can be, Pittsburgh feels if it becomes a special teams game, it is to their advantage. Pittsburgh is 3-for-6 on the power play in the Stanley Cup finals.