PITTSBURGH (AP)—Now that they’ve silenced the Igloo, the Detroit Red Wings are ready to rock Hockeytown.
Wherever they play, they’re beating the Pittsburgh Penguins with defense.
After the Red Wings grabbed the lead on Jiri Hudler’s third-period goal, top-line forward Henrik Zetterberg and the rest of Detroit’s penalty-killers held off Pittsburgh during a lengthy 5-on-3 power play and went on to beat the Penguins 2-1 Saturday night, taking a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup finals.
Detroit will get the first of three potential chances to hoist the Cup for an 11th time on Monday night at home in Game 5.
“It never gets old,” said defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, seeking his fourth title with the Wings in 11 seasons but first as captain. “We know as a team we haven’t won anything yet … but sure you’re excited about being in a position like this.”
Hudler snapped a 1-1 tie 2:26 into the third, but the Penguins had a golden chance to get even just past the midway point of the period when Andreas Lilja’s interference penalty on Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins a 5-on-3 power play for 1:27.
“When you see their lineup on the faceoff, (Evgeni) Malkin, Crosby, (Marian) Hossa, (Sergei) Gonchar, you’re just hoping, praying,” Hudler said.
Crosby had the best scoring opportunity, but Zetterberg tied up the Penguins captain’s stick at the right post and didn’t allow him to get off a shot.
“It’s a challenge to play against such good players, especially when you’re down two guys,” Zetterberg said. “You practice a lot on it during the year, and it’s fun to have a chance to do it in a game.”
Zetterberg also did what the Red Wings do best, control the puck. After scoring 43 goals in the regular season, the Swedish forward is second in the NHL with 12 more in the postseason. He is also a finalist for the Selke Trophy, given to the league’s top defensive forward.
Crosby wasn’t overly impressed with the effort.
“He made a good play on me, got my stick,” Crosby said. “I don’t think he did anything out of the ordinary besides what any other guy would do on a 5-on-3.”
The Penguins were a perfect 9-0 in the Igloo during the postseason and hadn’t lost at home since Feb. 24—a span of 17 games. Now they will have to figure out how to win at Joe Louis Arena to force the series back to Pittsburgh for Game 6.
That’ll be a tough task considering they couldn’t even score a goal in two games there to open the series.
Six teams have survived long enough to reach Game 7 after trailing 3-1 in the finals, but only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs—who fell behind 3-0 to the Red Wings—came all the way back to win.
Pittsburgh would have to win twice in Motown, where the Red Wings are 9-1 during the postseason, to capture the Stanley Cup for the third time.
“We have to win one to get back,” Crosby said. “That’s the way we’re thinking. They scored two, we scored one, so I don’t think they’re running away with it. We’ll battle them in Detroit and see what happens.”
Hudler set up the Red Wings’ when he smacked in a backhander from the bottom of the right circle with his back to the net. Brooks Orpik’s clearing attempt from behind the net was kept in by defenseman Brad Stuart, who sent the bouncing puck back down low.
Rookie center Darren Helm chipped it to Hudler, who snapped a drive off Marc-Andre Fleury’s left arm and inside the post for his fifth of the playoffs. That was enough to hand Fleury his first home loss in 19 home starts, dating to Nov. 21.
“It’s a lot of fun, obviously, in the Stanley Cup finals,” Hudler said. “It was kind of a lucky goal, but I’ll take it. I was thinking, ‘I shouldn’t be here right now. I want to play good D first.”’
Chris Osgood made 22 saves to improve to 13-3 in the postseason. He has allowed four goals in the series. Fleury stopped 28 shots.
With less than a minute left in the advantage, Penguins coach Michel Therrien called timeout to give his struggling power-play unit a rest. It didn’t help.
Malkin put a shot off the outside of the net, and the red goal light switched on—giving the fans false hope. The Penguins didn’t record a shot during the two-man edge.
“There’s no doubt we needed to get that goal,” Therrien said. “We didn’t execute well. We got a good chance to tie up the game right there, and we didn’t do the job.”
The night didn’t start out in the Red Wings’ favor, even though an octopus splattered in the Pittsburgh end near the completion of the national anthem. Dallas Drake took a roughing penalty that led to Hossa’s power-play goal early in the first, before Lidstrom tied it for the Red Wings 4:15 later.
Hossa’s 10th goal of the playoffs was Pittsburgh’s second goal in 12 power-play chances in the series.
Detroit also has struggled on the advantage, coming in with two goals on 19 opportunities against the Penguins. The Red Wings clicked 2 seconds after Pascal Dupuis’ cross-checking penalty expired.
Brian Ralfaski slid a pass left to defense partner Lidstrom, who after a slight backward curl ripped a drive that got by Fleury 7:06 into the first.
The momentum off Pittsburgh’s 3-2 win in Game 3 continued in the Penguins’ direction before the opening faceoff when it was announced that Detroit top-line forward Tomas Holmstrom wouldn’t play due to a hamstring injury.
Holmstrom, always a presence in front especially on the power play, was hurt in Game 3 when he was knocked into the net by Pittsburgh defenseman Hal Gill.
The good fortune didn’t last as the Penguins fell to 11-1 in the playoffs when scoring first.
Darren McCarty, who hadn’t played since Game 1, took Holmstrom’s place in the lineup. … The Red Wings blocked nine shots in the first period, the same amount the Penguins got through to Osgood. … Malkin, an MVP finalist, has no points in the series.