Zetterberg propels Red Wings past Penguins
Unlike Saturday night in Vancouver, Henrik Zetterberg didn't wait until the last second to win it.
Zetterberg had two goals, including the eventual winner in the second period, and assisted on another as the Detroit Red Wings downed the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in Monday night's rematch of the last two Stanley Cup finals.
"It went our way tonight," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said.
"It was like a playoff game," Zetterberg noted.
Zetterberg set up Valtteri Filppula's opening goal in the final minute of the first period, then scored himself in both the second and third to lead Detroit.
Two nights earlier, Zetterberg's goal with one second remaining in regulation vaulted the Red Wings over the host Vancouver Canucks 4-3.
"We're doing a good job as a five-man unit," he said.
Monday's output at Detroit gave him six goals and 15 points in his last 11 outings, and marked his third three-point effort this season.
The high-flying Swede capped the evening by getting into a feisty shoving match with rival centre Sidney Crosby — "I knew it was him without turning around," said Zetterberg — that prompted rookie netminder Jimmy Howard to intervene on Zetterberg's behalf.
"I don't think that's where he should be," a visibly annoyed Crosby said of Howard, who rubbed the superstar the wrong way — in the face with his trapper. "I don't know what he was doing over there."
Responding to a frustrated Crosby cross-checking Zetterberg, no doubt.
"A lot of guys play you tough," Crosby said, referring to Zetterberg.
"I know Sid now pretty good now and he is a competitive guy and he wants to win that matchup," Babcock said. "Good players like playing against good players and like to beat good players."
Howard stopped 26 of 27 shots in his 19th consecutive start for the Red Wings (36-23-13), who, until a recent resurgence, flirted with the spectre of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1989-90 — an almost inconceiveable circumstance considering they were crowned Stanley Cup champions in 2008 and reached the final in 2009.
Asked if he could see the Red Wings and Penguins reaching the championship final for the third straight season, Zetterberg grinned and said: "Hopefully, that will happen."
Detroit has returned to its winning form in the past dozen games, going 9-2-1 following a four-game losing skid and holding down the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth by four points over the Calgary Flames.
"This is the best run we have been on all year," Babcock said. "We're desperate to try to get into the playoffs.
"We have proud players who have done a lot of winning over a long period of time. We would all like to get into the tournament and we think we have a shot if we get in."
Pascal Dupuis scored for the Penguins (42-25-6), who clipped the Red Wings 2-1 on Crosby's shootout winner on Jan. 31.
Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 30 saves in defeat.
"It seemed like they played harder than we did from start to finish," he said. "They wanted it more than we did tonight and that showed in the final score."
The Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions, remain two points ahead of Buffalo and New Jersey in the Eastern Conference standings, but both the Sabres and Devils now enjoy two games in hand.
"I think our level, as far as desperation, needs to go up," Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said.
'Playing way better lately'
Filppula opened the scoring 19:04 into the first period, firing a shot between the legs of Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar that fooled Fleury to the stick side.
It was Filppula's ninth goal of the season and the 50th of his five-year NHL career. Veteran play-by-play man Mike Emrick, celebrating a milestone of his own with his 3,000th broadcast, joked that Filppula's goal lifted him to within 786 goals of franchise scoring leader Gordie Howe.
Such is the light-hearted humour heard in Hockeytown these days.
Zetterberg made it 2-0 less than eight minutes into the second period on an eerily similar play to Saturday's winning tally. Collecting the puck from captain Nicklas Lidstrom, he sliced into the slot and unleashed a backhand shot that struck winger Todd Bertuzzi on the rump as he screened in front. Zetterberg then flipped in the rebound for his 21st.
Dupuis trimmed the deficit with 3:06 left in the second, receiving credit for his 18th goal on a chip shot from behind the net that caromed in off Zetterberg defending in front.
Zetterberg then completed the scoring 80 seconds into the third, corralling Filppula's pass from the side boards and surprising Fleury with a quick snap shot for his second goal of the game and 22nd this season.
"We have been playing way better lately," Babcock concluded. "In order to play better and win, you have to have a 60-minute effort and we had that tonight."
With files from The Associated Press