Penguins need key 1st goal to pull even
Pittsburgh needs a victory in Game 4, and popping the opener can go a long way
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET) may come down to something simple: first goal wins.
And if that goal could come from Evgeni Malkin, that would be even better.
The Penguins are 11-0 in these playoffs when they pot the first one, and getting on the board before Detroit is obviously key in Saturday's crucial game.
Down two games and coming home to the Mellon Arena on Wednesday night, the Pens jumped out to a 2-0 lead and hung on for a 3-2 victory that got them back in the series, which they trail 2-1.
They got a little help from goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who held the Wings at bay in the early going as Detroit built up a 9-1 shot advantage to open Game 3.
He stopped 16 Wings' shots in the third to preserve his 19th straight win at home, a mark that goes back to Nov. 24 (helped by the long recovery from an injury in mid-season).
Malkin, with 19 playoff points, has been held off the board by the Wings in this series and the Penguins need him back to keep the flow heading their way.
Momentum has turned a little after Detroit won the opening two games at home, both by shutouts. But if you want "Big Mo" on your side for the long run, best to create it yourself.
Kept out of the first game, Pittsburgh's Gary Roberts had pronounced himself fully recovered from a bout of pneumonia. The 42-year-old has hurled himself around for two contests, realizing this will likely be his last chance at another Stanley Cup — 19 years after the first came with the Calgary Flames.
"I haven't played tons of hockey this year, so now that I'm feeling like I've got my health back, I'm just trying to bring some energy and create some scoring chances for my linemates," said Roberts, who had a broken leg in December.
"Whatever you can contribute, you try to contribute and help the team win."
Roberts was bashing everything in sight during the third period of Game 3, and that led to Adam Hall's game winner.
"He's a guy that can go out there and really give you momentum with a big hit or creating that energy that you need," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.
"When he's out there, every guy on the ice knew it."
Roberts knows his role, and is playing it to the hilt.
"I look at 1989 and I look at guys like Brian MacLellan, and Jim Peplinski and Timmy Hunter," he says of that Cup-winning group.
"They were big parts of our team that weren't in our lineup during the playoff rounds," he said. "They were right there holding the cup at the end of it and were as big a part of it as anybody.
"That's kind of the route I'm trying to take," Roberts said. "Just be part of it. Be good when you're out there and take advantage of this opportunity because deep down, I know that this is probably the last time for me."
As for Detroit, back from a one-day retreat at a resort outside Pittsburgh, they're aware grabbing momentum is key. They're also being careful not to say anything controversial.
"Well, 3-1 sounds a lot better than 2-2 to us," said forward Kris Draper in stating the obvious. "While they have the one mind-set that they want to tie this series up, we're looking for a split.
"If we can do that, we'll feel like we've accomplished something here in Pittsburgh."
Like being able to bring the series back to Detroit with it pretty much wrapped up.
Help may come with news Tomas Holmstrom looked by the end of Friday to be available for Game 4, following a hamstring pull in Game 3.
Detroit has outshot the Pens 104-65 in the first three games and they've only allowed one team (Nashville in the first round) to outshoot them in any contest.
With files from Associated Press