The Stanley Cup final is back to square one after the Pittsburgh Penguins held serve on home ice Thursday night.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each had a goal and an assist as they lifted the hometown Penguins to a 4-2 win over the defending champion Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 at Mellon Arena.
The Penguins evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2, setting up a pivotal Game 5 on Saturday night in Detroit (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
Silenced for the better part of this matchup, Crosby finally broke through with his first goal of the final, and it also turned out to be the game-winner.
"These last couple [of games] at home have been desperation [for] us," said Crosby. "It's going to be like that the [rest of the] way."
Malkin leads the post-season with 35 points — the most ever by a Russian-born player.
Centre Jordan Staal scored a critical short-handed goal and added an assist, while Tyler Kennedy netted a second-period tally.
"We've got to win in their building to win the series," said Penguins forward Chris Kunitz. "We're going to have to have our best effort in Game 5."
Staal nets game-changer
Maligned for the first two games of the series, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 37 Detroit shots to earn his second straight win.
The Wings received markers from Darren Helm and Brad Stuart, with goalie Chris Osgood making 27 saves.
Trailing 2-1 in the second, the Penguins used a three-goal outburst in a 5:37 span to break the game open.
Staal began the scoring with a short-handed goal at 8:35 after he blew past Detroit defenceman Brian Rafalski and snapped a shot to the stick side of Osgood.
"Max [Talbot] made a great pass and I saw [Detroit defenceman Nicklas] Lidstrom flat-footed," Staal explained to Hockey Night In Canada. "I had a little step on Rafalski, so I kept going with it. I tried to drive my body in front of the net and let it go.
"I knew it was a game-changer. I thought, you know the fans really got into it from there. It seemed that the boys really got some momentum from it and we really took off."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said mistakes and failing to score on back-to-back power plays before Pittsburgh's surge hurt his team.
"We turned the puck over a lot. I thought our power play sucked the life right out of us tonight," Babcock said of a unit that has only scored once this series.
Staal's goal seemed to energize Pittsburgh as it struck again moments later when Crosby took advantage of a two-on-one break by one-timing Malkin's pass past Osgood.
Crosby was finally able to shake the close checking of Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg, who committed a few turnovers in the game.
"In order to put [Zetterberg] out in a situation where Sidney is going to play in an offensive situation and also play him on the power play, that's a lot of time for a guy to handle," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.
"It's a challenge chasing Sidney Crosby around the ice. It's one we're going to try and make him do."
With the momentum clearly on Pittsburgh's side, the Penguins increased their lead with more than five minutes left in the second following a beautiful three-way passing play.
Kunitz picked up the loose puck off a Detroit turnover and sent a pass to Crosby, who quickly spotted a streaking Kennedy. The forward made no mistake with his opportunity, netting his fourth goal of the post-season over Osgood.
Malkin had a chance to put Pittsburgh ahead by three goals in the dying moments of the second, but his last-ditch wrist shot was denied by Osgood.
Fleury took over from there, stopping all 11 shots he faced in the third to finish off his best game of the final.
Veteran Kris Draper returned to the Detroit lineup after missing six games with a suspected groin injury, yet the Red Wings received some bad news when they learned centre Pavel Datsyuk wouldn't suit up.
The Russian, who sat his seventh game with a foot injury, wasn't fit enough to play after taking part in Thursday morning's skate.
The Penguins got to Detroit early, scoring their fourth power-play goal of the playoffs at 2:39 of the first.
Defenceman Kris Letang missed the net, but Malkin was there to pick up the rebound at the side of the net and slip the puck behind Osgood.
The Wings pulled even with 1:41 remaining in the first and the teams skating four-on-four. Centre Darren Helm intercepted a careless clearing pass by Penguins defenceman Rob Scuderi before sailing a shot past a screened Fleury.
Detroit took a 2-1 lead just 46 seconds into the second period. Zetterberg circled around the Penguins' net and fed a point-pass to defenceman Stuart, who buried a shot over a helpless Fleury.
For some puzzling reason, Penguins winger Bill Guerin was standing right in front of Fleury, giving the Pittsburgh netminder no chance to stop the puck on the play.
"I think we do it [screen the goaltender] a lot in practice to get ready for games. I think maybe next time we'll try to make sure they forget about it," joked Fleury.
The Penguins, however, responded with the three-goal onslaught to send the series back to Detroit all square.