The Pittsburgh Penguins may have just played the biggest momentum-swinging period of their playoffs. Now, there is doubt that that the once ‘over’ series is now far from that.
Until Game 4, the finals followed the same pattern as last year’s: Detroit won the first two at home, then dropped Game 3 in Pittsburgh. But the Red Wings couldn’t follow up their 2-1 road victory in Game 4 of last year, one decided largely when they killed off a lengthy Pittsburgh 5-on-3 advantage, and now these finals are the best-of-three.
Jordan Staal’s short-handed goal during back-to-back Detroit power plays started Pittsburgh’s comeback, and the Penguins scored three goals in less than 6 minutes of the second period Thursday night to win 4-2 and tie the series at 2.
Evgeni Malkin, enjoying the best postseason since Wayne Gretzky’s in 1993, and Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist each to help rally the Penguins from a 2-1 deficit a year to the day Detroit raised the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh by winning Game 6.
Tyler Kennedy also scored and Marc-Andre Fleury, with his second successive excellent game, made 37 saves.
The Red Wings were done in by a bad second period and brutal special teams, even with Kris Draper back in the mix. Pittsburgh has converted on 4 of 9 power plays, and this game swung when the Penguins got a goal—and the Red Wings didn’t—during 3:59 of continuous Detroit power-play time. Detroit was 0 for 4 with the man advantage.
This series is officially up for grabs. The Red Wings – and this coming from a Red Wings fan – are going to lose this series unless they get Pavel Datsyuk back.
Datsyuk, a finalist for the Hart trophy (season MVP), Selke trophy (best defensive forward) Lady Byng trophy (skill and gentlemanly player), and most importantly, a four-time Stanley Cup Champion. He was the Red Wings’ leading scorer in the regular season with 97 points, including 32 goals, and would provide quite a lift. Even if Datsyuk is only on the ice to help with the powerplay, it’s better than not having him in the lineup at all.
Datsyuk’s destiny will ultimately be determined by his Saturday morning skate.
The bigger question is this: with the Penguins having a new-found sense of accomplishment and confidence, is it too little too late? Although the series is tied at 2 apiece, Staal’s second period goal looks like it’s a series changer.
Game 5 is Saturday night in Detroit, with Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday after the series’ first two-day break.