Red Wings embarrass Penguins in Game 5
Detroit rebounded from two losses in Pittsburgh with a statement game on Saturday, drubbing the Penguins 5-0 to put themselves on the cusp of a second straight Stanley Cup.
Daniel Cleary, Valterri Filppula, Niklas Kronwall, Brian Rafalski and Henirk Zetterberg all scored for Detroit, which took a 3-2 series lead. Pavel Datsyuk returned after a seven-game injury absence to set up two goals.
Detroit broke open a 1-0 game with four goals in the second period.
Netminder Chris Osgood was tested in the first period but faced few threats the rest of the way, finishing with 22 saves.
He recorded his second shutout of the playoffs and 15th of his career. The career mark puts him alone into fourth all-time, behind Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Curtis Joseph.
"The addition of Pavel coming back for us tonight was tremendous. He played great for us," Cleary told Hockey Night in Canada. "The power play was good, we had a good start, Ossie was good."
The Red Wings neutralized Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who shone in their home rink in Games 3 and 4. Malkin displayed the immaturity that plagued him last year in the final, taking an elbow penalty out of frustration that helped lead to Detroit's fourth goal.
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was mercifully pulled after five goals in favour of Mathieu Garon. Fleury finished with 16 saves.
With Detroit up 5-0, Crosby slashed Zetterberg to take a minor penalty.
Detroit can close out the Penguins in six games in the championship final for a second straight year on Tuesday in Pittsburgh (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET).
After losing the special teams battle in Pittsburgh, Detroit effectively was perfect on its first four power-play opportunities. Only three counted as official power-play goals, with the other coming just after a Penguins penalty expired.
Pittsburgh will have to win at home and then find a way to break through at Joe Louis Arena in a potential Game 7 on Friday, if necessary.
"They play great at home," said Cleary. "It's going to be a tough challenge. We've been there before last year, so we're going to play our best game — patient, a good road game, be smart on the changes and make sure we don't turn the puck over."
No place like home for Wings
The Red Wings have outscored their opponent 11-2 in the building. The defending champs are 11-1 at home in the playoffs, with the only loss coming in overtime against Anaheim in the second round.
But the two losses in Pittsburgh had hockey observers talking if fatigue was taking a toll on Detroit.
While coach Mike Babcock took exception to a question about his team's collective age on Saturday, he didn't deny that the Red Wings had experienced a lull.
"We just finished with Anaheim and then we had to play Chicago and we just seemed to be a worn-down team," said Babcock. "I thought we had good jump tonight."
Datsyuk made his first appearance shortly after the opening faceoff after missing the last seven games due to a foot injury.
Osgood bobbled a shot by Malkin just over two minutes into the game, but Ruslan Fedotenko couldn't beat the Red Wings goalie to the rebound.
Fleury was tested by a Tomas Holmstrom slapshot inside the right circle just under six minutes into the game. He then excelled with a pad save on Zetterberg's redirection of a point shot.
The Pens were applying pressure in the Detroit end but they fizzled on their first power play after a negligible penalty given to Detroit's Kronwall.
"I think we did start off well [but] I think we didn't shoot the puck well enough or often eough when we had those chances," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "We were looking for the extra pass when we had the opportunity to get pucks on him early."
The penalty kill seemed to give the Red Wings a boost, and they controlled the neutral zone to set up Cleary's opening tally. Datsyuk controlled the puck and fed to the right side to Cleary, whose shot changed direction after passing through defenceman Brooks Orpik.
"He wasn't 100 per cent Pavel Datsyuk, but I'll take 85 per cent of Pavel Datsyuk than 100 per cent of most other guys," said Rafalski. "His vision obviously is very good and [so is] his ability to handle the puck. I think he's only going to get stronger as we go forward."
Cleary scored his first of the final after netting six in six games through the end of the Western Conference final against Chicago.
The Red Wings gained momentum from the goal, but could not convert before the end of the period.
They had no such problem just seconds after a Pittsburgh penalty lapsed early in the second, a play started when Osgood threw the puck up ice. Marian Hossa received the head pass and made a nifty backhand dish in the slot to Filppula, who burst past Penguins defenders and beat Fleury between the pads at the 1:44 mark.
"That one — after the kill, that would have got us some momentum and they got that goal," said Bylsma. "I thought that was a big goal."
Detroit would add a bona fide power-play goal at 6:11, set up by the offensive acumen of Kronwall. The defenceman took Johan Franzen's pass in the right corner and squeezed through defenders Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi before beating Fleury upstairs.
Malkin, who now has 47 penalty minutes in the playoffs, took an undisciplined elbowing penalty that led to Detroit's fourth. With Holmstrom screening Fleury, Rafalski's shot found it sway to the back of the net.
Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz soon took his second minor of the game, with Zetterberg snapping a shot over Fleury's glove for a 5-0 bulge.
The Penguins starter would depart for Garon, who made his first game appearance since April 5.
It was a far cry from Fleury's experience in Game 5 one year ago in the final, when he made 55 saves to almost single-handedly stave off elimination for the Penguins.
Pittsburgh defenceman Kris Letang couldn't hit the net on his team's second power-play chance of the game early in the third, while Garon prevented a more lopsided score with eight saves in the third, a few of them of the challenging variety.