DETROIT (AP)—Mikael Samuelsson doesn’t even garner a mention among the alumni in the Pittsburgh Penguins media guide. After his two-goal performance in the Stanley Cup finals opener, the little-known Detroit Red Wings forward won’t be forgotten in the Steel City again.
Samuelsson, one of the least-heralded among the Red Wings’ seven Swedish players, broke out of a scoring slump, and Chris Osgood stifled the Penguins’ young and talented stable of forwards with 19 saves to lift Detroit to a 4-0 victory Saturday night.
Samuelsson doubled his playoff goal total in the biggest game of his five-season NHL career. He had been dropped to Detroit’s third line earlier in the playoffs and had posted only two assists since a two-goal outburst on May 1.
“I just live in the moment,” said Samuelsson, who scored two goals in 22 games during the 2002-03 season with the Penguins. “We played good as a team. I’m lucky to be the one who scored a couple of goals.”
Samuelsson was traded to Florida in a deal that helped the Penguins land goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with the top pick of the 2003 draft. Instead of having his stats listed between Kjell and Ulf Samuelsson in the guide, Mikael is missing.
“I don’t think much about it now,” Samuelsson said of his time with Pittsburgh. “I’m happy to be in Detroit. I’ll go from there and play the best I can.”
Detroit overpowered Fleury with a 36-shot barrage. Osgood has two postseason shutouts this season and 12 in his playoff career.
Game 2 is Monday night in Detroit.
“We’re a different team than what they played before,” Osgood said. “We possessed the puck. We like to the majority of the time, if we can. That’s the best defense when we have the puck. That’s what we believe in. I just think they hadn’t seen it before.”
With Samuelsson finding his scoring touch, it didn’t matter that Franzen— tied with Zetterberg for the NHL lead with 12 postseason goals—missed his sixth straight game due to recurring headaches. He seems close to returning, and that could pose big problems for the Penguins, 12-3 in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh raced out to 3-0 leads in each of the first three rounds—all started at home—and didn’t drop more than one game to any opponent. Detroit, however, kept Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in check along with the rest of Pittsburgh’s 20-somethings and under.
“I don’t know if it was the nerves,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “Definitely that was the worst performance of the playoffs. We didn’t compete like we were supposed to compete. It’s a good lesson.”
Zetterberg, along with linemate Pavel Datsyuk, finished in the top six in the NHL in scoring this season and are finalists to be the league’s best defensive forward. They were matched against Crosby’s line.
“I don’t think we came here expecting an easy series,” Crosby said. “For sure they played a tight checking game. That’s playoff hockey. You still have to find ways around that.”
In a series billed as a matchup between Penguins’ youth and Red Wings’ experience, Detroit claimed the first strike. The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Red Wings are 13-4 in the playoffs and three wins from their fourth Stanley Cup title in 11 seasons.
Samuelsson needed no help as both of his goals were unassisted. He bailed out fellow Swede Tomas Holmstrom, who was whistled for interference on Fleury that negated a goal by Lidstrom that would have been the game’s first score.
Samuelsson broke the tie in the second period, picking off an errant pass on the far side of center ice and taking it all the way with 6:59 left in the first.
It was Samuelsson’s first goal in seven games, dating to the series-clinching Game 4 win over Colorado.
“He didn’t score here lately, but he got an assist his last game,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Sammy is kind of a streak guy. When he scores he feels good about himself.”
Samuelsson netted his second 2:16 into the third when Pittsburgh’s Rob Scuderi and Evgeni Malkin took turns fumbling the puck. Samuelsson got it and was alone at the top of the crease for the goal. Dan Cleary added a short-handed goal with 2:42 left and Fleury was beaten by Zetterberg for a power-play goal with 12 seconds remaining.
The Red Wings had already been whistled for three penalties in the first period when Holmstrom was sent to the box for a second time and wiped out Lidstrom’s goal.
Lidstrom ripped a drive from Fleury’s left as Holmstrom cut across the top of the crease and smacked the goalie’s feet with his stick with 4:40 left in the first. The puck sailed into the net, drawing a huge roar from the crowd that didn’t see referee Dan O’Halloran emphatically waving off the first goal of the highly anticipated series.
Babcock demanded an explanation at the bench during the ensuing commercial break and then cursed at O’Halloran once he heard it. The call was reminiscent of one against Holmstrom in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals that also cost the Red Wings a goal in a loss to Dallas.
“That’s the rule, you can’t put your stick in the crease now?” Babcock said. “Did they change that when I wasn’t watching? Did he touch his pads in any way or interfere with him in any way?
“They’ve got to decide. I just coach the game. I don’t get to referee it.”
Osgood, who backstopped Detroit’s Stanley Cup run in 1998, is 11-2 since taking over from Dominik Hasek in the first round and has allowed 20 goals in 14 games.
Pittsburgh has been shut out in two of its playoff losses. … The Penguins haven’t won in Detroit since Dec. 10, 2000. … Lidstrom went off for holding in the first period and interference in the third, giving him 14 penalty minutes in these playoffs and 64 overall in 209 career postseason games.