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June 26, 2019
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Pittsburgh outshot Detroit 32-30 and played the Wings on even terms all night. That shot total is significant. Last year, the Wings enjoyed a 36-19 edge in Game One, and the Penguins never outshot the Wings in any of the six games.
This game was as even as even gets. Both teams had to fight for space, with the best chances coming in tight around the cage. Not a lot of open ice. The difference in the game was three lucky bounces.
The first came at 13:38 of the opening frame when an innocent Brad Stuart wrister from the left point sailed wide, struck the endboards, and kicked in off the back of Marc-Andre Fleuryís right leg. Absolutely pathetic.
Fleury said he learned two things last year playing in Detroit. First, the doors to the ice are small. Check. Flower made it through without tripping this time. Second, he said the boards were wicked lively. Well, apparently Charles Foster Kane isnít the only guy who needs more than one lesson.
Fleury could get away with mental mistakes against Washington and Carolina. Not against Detroit. Each goal carries colossal significance. He has to make the Wings earn everything they get. And he didnít do that in Game One.
Unlike last year, Pittsburgh didnít rattle. The Pens shook off the horrendous goal and bagged the equalizer at 18:37 when Ruslan Fedotenko feasted on a plump rebound. Evgeni Malkin made the play, plucking an errant Brad Stuart clear off the left wall and blasting a slap shot on net. Chris Osgood made the initial save but left the cookie for Fedotenko to wrap into the yawning cage.
And thatís how you have to beat Osgood. Listen, as much as I hate the guy, heís superb on his angles and makes all the saves he should. But he has worse recovery than the U.S. dollar. Once heís down, heís done. Anything side to side is in the net.
Pittsburgh came out flying in the second period and dominated play for the first 10 minutes. But the Wings shifted momentum with two big penalty kills. The Pens came close on the first power play, narrowly missing on a mad scramble in the crease. The second advantage, though, was a complete debacle. Not even a hint of pressure. The Pens wonít win this series unless they convert power plays.
Detroit seized control after the second kill and buzzed the Penguin net on a few occasions, pressuring a beleaguered Penguin squad into an icing with 1:14 left in the stanza. Crosby, Guerin, Kunitz, Gill, and Scuderi were completely gassed. Dan Bylsma elected to use his timeout. Didnít work.
Mike Babcock countered with Zetterberg, Franzen, Cleary, Lidstrom, and Rafalski. Zetterberg beat Crosby on the draw, a consistent theme all evening, and the Wings got the cycle spinning.
Guerin had a chance to clear and whiffed. Zetterberg kept the puck in along the left wing boards and slipped a pass to Franzen, who fired a shot from the top of the circle into Crosbyís shins. The puck caromed into the right circle, sitting on a platter for a Rafalski one-timer. Scuderi slid over to block the shot wide, but those pesky endboards caused more grief, spitting the puck back in front for Franzen.
Again, Fleury seemed completely shocked at the lively bounce and had to dive to his left in a desperate attempt to regain his net. In doing so, he inadvertently kicked Franzenís backhander, which would have slid through the crease, over the goal line to give Detroit the 2-1 lead.
Another awful goal. At least the Wings earned this bounce with some hard work. Still, it doesnít change the fact neither goal should have gone in.
Any hope of a third-period rally got kicked in the Charlie Browns when Justin Abdelkater scored 2:46 into the final frame. Justin Abdelwho?
Thatís right, even the fourth-line scrubs were getting lucky bounces. Abdelkater slammed a puck in tight off Fleuryís pads and the rebound went straight up in the air. Fleury and Jordan Staal couldnít find the biscuit, so Abdelkater signaled for the fair catch and gloved the puck to the ice. He then whacked it on one hop into the joint of the left post and crossbar. When it rains, it pours.
Pittsburgh wasnít nearly as lucky. Later in the third, Crosby jammed a puck at the side of the net that flipped up and landed square in the middle of a prone Osgoodís back. Zetterberg jumped in and covered the puck with his hand while Osgood was still in the crease, but the refs didnít call the penalty shot. Thanks for nothing.
Malkin skated straight in and wristed a shot off Osgoodís glove and into the mesh. Yippee.
Chris Osgood has the lateral movement of, well, Chris Osgood. If you take a shot, youíre doing him a favor. Go with speed, one move, and itís in the net. Forehand, backhand, doesnít matter. Make a (sunshining) move.
Then again, Iím not surprised Malkin butchered the chance. Iíve never seen someone so talented struggle so much on breakaways. Itís quite vexing.
Malkin has to score there. Those are the moments that swing games. Lemieux scores there. Jagr scores there. Malkin has to bury that. If he does, the Pens are up 2-1, and he sets the tone for the entire series.
My personal favorite was when Brooks Orpik knocked that creep Marian Hossa loopyÖ
Aw, that was beautiful. Orpik is good people. I have that video running on a loop at the house. (Sunshine) Hossa.
Thatís unacceptable. Each faceoff win is puck possession. The Wings are good enough without handing them control seven out of 10 times.
If Iím Bylsma, I have my defensemen just hold the puck in the defensive zone until they commit more than one man. Seriously, just keep passing it back and forth until the Wings come get it. Who cares? Run the clock out if you have to. It would at least shine a light on how gay the Wings are.
Once more, all this nonsense goes away if the league would just adopt the defensive blue line for icing. That one change would cripple the trap and all similar neutral zone shenanigans. But thatís why I have all the vision and the rest of the world is wearing bifocals.
It also wouldnít hurt if the stripes called an interference penalty once in a while.
Pittsburgh needs a split out of Detroit. With the margin for error so slim, it probably isnít a good idea to fall behind 0-2. And they canít waste these Datsyuk-less games.
If the Pens bring the same effort, and Fleury doesnít put two pucks in his own net, I like their chances.