It would have been a real surprise if Pittsburgh did not win game three of the Stanley Cup Finals. They were finally getting to play a Cup game at their rink, and they are too good of a team to go down 3-0 at all, let alone without a fight.
The biggest key to the Pens’ 4-2 win was the way they stepped up their defense. In spite of being out-shot by Detroit 29-21, Pittsburgh blocked 18 shots, while Detroit only blocked five. In the third and deciding period, the Penguins allowed only three shots on the goal. It's pretty hard to break a tie if you are Detroit and that happens.
As this author stated in a previous column, the lesson from game one was: clear the puck. Detroit failed to apply this lesson in the third period, when Pittsburgh had a power play. The Penguins kept the Wings trapped in their defensive zone, unable to make a line change, for 1:23 of the man advantage. Sergei Gonchar scored the game winner against an exhausted Wings defense.
The Wings cannot afford a replay of tonight’s performance on special teams. They scored only once out of six power play attempts. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, was more efficient, scoring twice out of four times with the man advantage. It made all the difference in what was effectively a 3-2 game.
While Detroit has done a good job of keeping Sidney Crosby in check, one adjustment they might want to make for game four is to slow down Maxime Talbot. The perennial thorn in the Wings’ side scored a goal with 34 seconds left in Game Five of the 2008 Finals, forcing overtime and eventually a sixth game. In this series, if he isn’t scoring goals, he’s threatening to do so.
Game Four is going to be a huge turning point, because the winner likely sets the tone for the rest of the series. If Detroit makes the adjustments it needs to make and wins, the series probably does not go beyond a sixth game.
If Pittsburgh wins, the series becomes more interesting. The team can make the series a battle of attrition, and would be more likely to force a seventh game. Once the finals come down to one game, anything can happen.