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The calendar read Memorial Day on this Monday in late May, but darned if it wasn't Groundhog Day.
Stop us if you've heard this one before: The Red Wings fired a few pucks past Fleury; outhustled and outmuscled he Penguins, at least if measured by seismic hits like the one Kronwall threw on Jarkko Ruutu; shielded Osgood, who did not face a shot when the teams were at even strength until 25:24 into the game; throttled Malkin, holding the incredibly shrinking center and his No. 2 line without a shot; clogged the neutral zone and curtailed Pittsburgh's ability to rush the puck; and began engraving a plaque in honor of the Penguins' Ryan Malone, which will be placed in the visitors' penalty box at Joe Louis Arena to mark his four minors.
Following a furious game of musical chairs with the leftwingers—Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien juggled them on all four lines—the reengineered Penguins came out in Game 2, saw their shadows and bolted. Suddenly it seemed as though there might be two games left in the hockey season after Detroit's convincing 3-0 victory over the Punxsutawney Penguins, a ditto of the lopsided series opener.
As Osgood noted after Game 1, the Penguins had never seen an Eastern Conference team like Detroit, which resolutely holds the puck and makes poised, clever plays. The Red Wings again played keepaway for most of the 60 minutes, which accounts in part for Pittsburgh's meager 22 shots. The other primary factor was the quick transitions by Detroit's top two defensive pairs (Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, Stuart and Kronwall), who aborted the Penguins' forecheck by moving the puck so smartly.
"Definitely the most complete team we played so far," Pittsburgh's Scuderi said. "They don't make many mistakes. I would have never thought it possible [to not score a goal in two games] with some of our talent; you just figure a lucky bounce off a rebound or a shot [will go in]. We're surprised. We came in here expecting to at least get a win."
Or a goal, minimum.
Maybe 20-year-old Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was simply waiting until the series jumped from cable to an over-the-air network to play a game for the ages. With his season in the balance—and with a potentially riveting series about to become the Heaven's Gate of Stanley Cup finals—NBC's favorite hockey player decided this was not going to be May sweeps week in Detroit.
Crosby played as big as the game itself, the ultimate measure of a star. In a showcase Game 3 that ranked in excitement, physicality and quality with any match in the past five finals, the NHL's youngest captain scored the first two goals in the 3-2 back-and-forth win for a team that, hallelujah, put a puck in the net and ran its playoff winning streak at Mellon Arena to nine games. On the night Versus ceded its place to the Peacock for the rest of the series, Crosby went all prime time on the Red Wings with his first goals since Mother's Day in the first home game of his Stanley Cup finals life.