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Johan Franzen of the Red Wings (93) fires the puck past netminder Marc-Andre Fleury in Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Penguins at Mellon Arena. ((Bruce Bennett/Getty Images))

The Pittsburgh Penguins bent but refused to break and skated to a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final on Tuesday night.

Sergei Gonchar's power-play goal 10:29 into the third period proved to be the winner as Pittsburgh trimmed Detroit's lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

The Red Wings won the first two games by identical 3-1 scores.

"It is great to be back in this series," Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said.

"In my opinion, in the two games at home, one of them could have gone the other way, too, so this series is where it should be," claimed Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock.

Game 4 goes Thursday at Pittsburgh (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).

"It is the same type of thing that we always talk about," Red Wings defenceman Brad Stuart explained. "We're not going to change a whole lot.

"I think we will probably want to start better and go from there. We did some good things; they won the game."

The Penguins showed plenty of spunk at the outset and were rewarded with an early 1-0 lead, but the Red Wings gradually took control and had superior scoring chances through 50 minutes.

Then Red Wings defenceman Jonathan Ericsson was penalized for interference, and Gonchar beat netminder Chris Osgood high to the glove side on a slapshot from the point for the decisive goal, his first of the series and third of the playoffs.

"They played a good third period," Babcock said. "They played a good first 10 minutes, we took over for the next 30 and then they got the call on Ericsson in the third and took over.

"They [referees] told us they were going to clamp down on it [interference]. I had seen four from one particular guy on their team, prior to that, that never got called, but they're trying their best, just like the teams."

Ericsson's penalty came at an opportune time for Pittsburgh — that is, before desperation set in.   

"We needed to calm down and get back to our game," Penguins rookie head coach Dan Bylsma said. "We started good, built some momentum, the building was going.  

"We had some chances and got the power play. That power play did an unbelievable job of winning puck battles, keeping it alive and giving Gonch the chance to rip that one home."

"When you have a guy like Gonch back there, who is such a calming influence, you want to get him the puck," stated Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who earned an assist on the goal.

"I don't want to say this was a must-win game," he said. "But everybody knows we needed to win this game."

Maxime Talbot sealed the win in the final minute with an empty-netter, his second goal on the night and sixth overall.

Gonchar and Kris Letang contributed one goal and one assist apiece for the Penguins, bidding to become the first team since the Montreal Canadiens in 1971 to fall behind 0-2 on the road and rally to win the Stanley Cup. 

Evgeni Malkin, winner of the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion with 113 points, had three assists and leads all playoff performers with 33 points.

'It was a power-play game'

Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen led the Red Wings  a goal and one assist apiece for the Red Wings, who are bidding to win back-to-back Stanley Cups for the first time since accomplishing the feat in 1997 and 1998.

"Tonight, we couldn't get the puck out, especially on the third goal," Zetterberg said.

"It was a power-play game," Babcock noted. "They got three and we got two."

Marian Hossa, who rejected a $49-million US offer from Pittsburgh to sign with Detroit for $7.5 million US last July 2, was a non-factor and booed every time he touched the puck.

"I knew what to expect," said Hossa, still scoreless in the series after leading the Red Wings with 40 goals during the regular season. 

"I didn't try to pay attention to that. I just tried to play."

"He has the puck a lot and that is good for us," Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula said. "I think he played really well.

"He had a couple real nice opportunities. I just have to hope it goes in for him in the next game."

Kris Draper, sidelined all but four games this post-season, pronounced himself recovered enough from a groin injury to return to action, but Detroit iced the identical lineup used in Game 2.

Speculation had Draper possibly replacing an ailing Mikael Samuelsson, but the latter skated a regular shift. 

Pavel Datsyuk, a Hart Trophy finalist and the team leader in points (97), missed his sixth straight game with a foot injury.

'That was a huge goal'

Pittsburgh had a splendid scoring chance in the opening minute of the contest as Crosby intercepted Lidstrom's clearing attempt and tried to pass the puck to Guerin, but the veteran winger was tied up by Detroit's Daniel Cleary.

The Penguins opened the scoring 4:48 into the first period when Letang picked off an errant outlet pass and flipped the puck back into the corner for Malkin, who set up Talbot in the high slot for a one-timer that fooled a sliding Osgood. 

Detroit replied in 91 seconds as rookie Ville Leino skated out front and had the puck swatted off his stick by Gonchar, but Zetterberg swept the rebound over a sprawled Fleury for his 10th goal. 

Franzen put the Red Wings ahead 2-1 with a power-play goal from the same spot, burying his 12th after Zetterberg's centring pass caromed to him off the stick of Penguins forward Matt Cooke. 

Moments after Osgood denied Crosby at the doorstep, Letang beat him between the pads with a slapshot from the circle for the tying goal, his fourth at 15:57.

"That was a huge goal by our power play," Talbot told CBC Sports.

Samuelsson nearly ended the stalemate on a breakaway early in the second period, only to ring a shot off the right post.

Detroit stifled Pittsburgh's high-flying offence for the remainder of the period, repeatedly cutting off the passing lanes and outshooting the Penguins 14-4.

"It is probably a little easier when you come out of a bad period like that and you're still tied," Crosby said. "You feel like you have dodged a bullet."  

The Penguins pushed back early in the third — they outshot the Red Wings 10-3 in the period — but Osgood blocked Jordan Staal's one-timer and kicked away the rebound to keep it deadlocked.

After Gonchar notched the go-ahead goal, Chris Kunitz had a glorious opportunity for an insurance marker, only to shoot high and wide of the net on a perfect set-up from Crosby.

But with Osgood lifted in favour of an extra attacker, Malkin blocked a shot and Talbot fired the puck into the empty net for his fifth tally with 57 seconds remaining.

"It was important to respond with a big third period," Crosby concluded.

With files from The Associated Press