DETROIT (AP)—Hold off on those parade plans.
That’s the message from Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski, who knows something about the pressure of finishing off a Stanley Cup championship: He won twice with the New Jersey Devils and saw one chance slip away in agonizing fashion.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Rafalski said Sunday. “I’ve learned that. I’ve lost one.”
Detroit will get its first of three chances to win a fourth title in 11 seasons—and 11th in franchise history—on Monday night at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As a rookie in the 2000 Stanley Cup finals, Rafalski and the Devils went up 3-1 against the Dallas Stars and were pushed to a Game 6.
The next year, Rafalski was within a win of repeating only to lose it as the Colorado Avalanche took the last two games and snatched the Cup away from him and the Devils.
In 2003, New Jersey was ahead 3-2 against the Mike Babcock-led Anaheim Ducks before beating them in Game 7.
“You’ve got to get that fourth game,” Rafalski said simply.
Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs have rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the finals to win the Stanley Cup, pulling off the feat against Detroit after losing the first three games.
Anaheim won last year’s Cup in Game 5 as Detroit did in 2002, but Carolina needed three potential elimination games to eliminate Edmonton in 2006.
Like Rafalski and the Devils, Calgary failed to take advantage of a 3-2 lead in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals.
The Penguins will need all their stars to play up to their potential to have any shot at coming back
Especially, Evgeni Malkin.
He has been held scoreless by Detroit after he had 19 points in 14 playoff games and 106 points in the regular season, trailing only Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin.
“We’re saying all the right things,” Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. “Basically it’s come to the players to perform and make sure that they stick to the plan.”
Marian Hossa, agreed, saying it’s time for action.
“Everybody knows how important it’s going to be next game,” Hossa said. “We don’t even have to talk about it.”
The Red Wings jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the series by beating the Penguins by a combined score of 7-0, then took a commanding lead in the series with a 2-1 victory in Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
With talent, grit, experience and history on Detroit’s side, some are already talking about candidates for the Conn Smyth Trophy as playoff MVP.
“Ozzie has been great,” Red Wings center Johan Franzen said. “Hank has been great. Pavel has stepped up. Nick and Nik.”
Since taking over for Dominik Hasek in the first round against Nashville, Osgood is 13-3 with a 1.45 goals-against average. He has allowed just four goals against the Penguins.
Zetterberg has 23 points in the playoffs, trailing Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby by a point, and has a NHL-high plus-16 rating thanks in part to his stellar defensive play.
Datsyuk has 20 points and his plus-13 rating trails just Zetterberg and Kronwall, who has complimented Lidstrom’s subtle style with open-ice hits that force opponents to keep their head on a swivel.
Those standouts will be joined Monday night by top-line forward Tomas Holmstrom, who is expected to play after missing Game 4 with an injured hamstring.
Lidstrom, though, cautions his teammates and anyone who will listen that the series is not over yet.
“We know we’re up and need only one more win, but you can’t allow yourself to think ahead,” Lidstrom said. “You have to just think about the game.”
If the Red Wings win one more game, the Swede will become the first European captain to win a Stanley Cup.
Osgood would join Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk, a former Red Wing, as only goaltender in NHL history to hoist the Stanley Cup at least 10 years apart. Sawchuk won titles in 1955 and 1967 and Osgood was Detroit’s No. 1 goalie in 1998.
The Penguins, though, are not ready to concede.
“We’ve got to win to stay alive,” Crosby said. “It’s pretty clear and simple. We’re going to be desperate, and all we focus on is winning that game.”