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Frustrated Penguins resort to whining

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And here's about when you figure I trash the Pittsburgh Penguins.

They don't have a goal since the Eastern Conference finals. Monday night they didn't have a shot until they trailed the Detroit Red Wings 2-0. All the line juggling from the 4-0 loss in Game 1 to the 3-0 loss in Game 2 amounted to zilch in the Stanley Cup finals. And their coach, Michel Therrien, stooped to whining about the officiating afterward, as if anyone is going to buy that commentary for the reason his team is halfway done for the season.

But no, this is not a time to rag on the vastly talented team that is happy to be heading home after two games in Detroit. This is what would be happening if the opponent was the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers or Montreal Canadiens.

This was exactly what happened when the opponent was the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators.

It's simple: The Red Wings are head and shoulders above everyone in an otherwise parity-filled league, and time is running out to be proven otherwise.

Monday night's clinic didn't do much to boost viewer interest as we all wave goodbye to another year of "national" coverage by Versus. (How will we get by without studio host Darren Eliot and sideline reporter Bob Harwood?) Detroit is must-see TV these days only to see what 29 other teams will try to do in the fall.

How else do you explain, with the onus on Pittsburgh to respond Monday from Saturday's setback, how the Red Wings not only took it to the Penguins from the drop of the first puck, but scored twice before the visitors could put a measly shot on goal? If the tone of Ryan Malone's first-period intermission interview was any reflection of what it sounded like in the locker room just behind him, then we know that Pittsburgh's spirit was broken after just 20 minutes in Game 2. And can you blame the Penguins?

It must be nice – when leading 2-0 midway through a second straight dominating performance – to be able to nit-pick your squad for experiencing a lull in the second period, getting bottled up between the blue lines and not working hard enough to get pucks behind the defense as Detroit coach Mike Babcock did during one of those intrusive Versus bench interviews.

It's hard to find anything wrong with what the Wings are doing in this series, in these playoffs and during this season.

Therrien was grasping at straws when he said Detroit was the best team he's seen at "obstruction." Only Therrien knows if he really believes that. These postgame Q&A's have gotten to the point where coaches don't respond with what they really think as much as they say what they want an opponent or an official to hear.

"He's a good actor," Therrien said of Wings goalie Chris Osgood in the postgame media conference. "I know our players are frustrated right now. It's tough to play the game, but Osgood did the same thing against Dallas.

"Our team never goes to the goalie. We never did it, and we don't target the goalie. You want to talk about experience, he goes to players, and he knows what to do, I guess."

Sounds like Therrien is using the media to influence calls later in the series and get under Osgood's skin.

It's really all he has until Tuesday when he and the Penguins start talking about how returning to The Igloo, where they are 8-0 in the postseason, winners of 16 straight overall, will be what turns the tide. How about this dose of reality: Detroit is looking for a split so it can go home and skate to the franchise's 11th Stanley Cup on home ice Monday night.

As good as the Red Wings have been, there's always going to be that crucial moment when something funny happens and the other team gets a chance. On Monday that came inside the final five minutes of the second period when Detroit defenseman Andreas Lilja stepped on the puck, fell and committed a ghastly turnover just inside his blue line when the game was 2-0.

Gary Roberts picked up the loose puck and made a surprisingly skillful play for a 42-year-old by backhanding a pass to an open Jordan Staal in the slot. Staal had teammate Tyler Kennedy in front of him on the sudden 2-on-0. Bury the shot and it's a one-goal game. Instead, Staal was a little too fine with his attempt, firing wide. He gathered the hard carom off the end boards but had a bad angle backhander to throw back at Osgood. The Detroit goalie made the stop look easy and handled the situation.

That was it for Game 2. The Penguins didn't have another serious scoring chance the entire night.

What had to be a bit disconcerting for the Penguins was the fact that inserting Roberts for leadership, toughness and grit backfired. The Wings weren't intimidated and Roberts took three penalties out of frustration (two minors and a 10-minute misconduct). If Therrien is honest to himself, he can't leave Roberts in for that.

But what can Therrien do? He's shaken up lines. He's made lineup changes. He's used the media for gamesmanship. He can't change goalies. Marc-Andre Fleury could take more heat than he's going to get for allowing three so-so goals in Game 2, but no goalie wins if his team doesn't score.

Don't blame Therrien. Don't blame the Pens. This one's all on the Wings. And there's more to come in Pittsburgh.