There’s not much analysis that a writer can put into a game like this one. Pittsburgh simply outplayed Detroit en route to a 4-2 victory in game four of the Stanley Cup Finals, tying the series at two games each.
Outplayed, outskated, outmuscled, and pretty much any other word beginning with ‘out’ best describes what happened to the Red Wings in the second period.
The Red Wings had momentum at the end of the first and into the second. After going down 0-1 to Pittsburgh, Darren Helm scored an unassisted goal to tie the game at one.
Detroit’s surge carried over into the second when, before a minute had elapsed, Brad Stuart scored on a slap shot to put the Wings up 2-1. Shortly thereafter, the Pens’ Brooks Orpik committed a tripping penalty, and with the man advantage it looked like things couldn’t get any better for Detroit.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
In the thirty plus years that I have been watching professional sports, I don’t know if I have ever seen as abrupt a momentum change as what was happened next. It’s definitely in my top five.
Detroit’s next power play started out dysfunctional and deteriorated into an outright disaster. Unable to get into a rhythm in their power play, the Wings gave up a short handed goal when Jordan Staal broke free at the blue line and took the puck to the net, tying the game at two.
One could almost make the argument that the worst thing that could happen to the Wings is to be in anything other than an even strength situation—even a power play. They were a horrific 0-4 on the man advantage tonight, while Pittsburgh scored on one of three power plays tonight.
It was so bad that the Penguins scored more goals on Detroit’s power plays than the Wings did. It’s one thing to not score goals on your own power play, but it’s an unchartered level of frustration to give up a shorthander.
One of Murphy’s laws is that nothing is so bad that it can’t get worse. Murphy might as well have been dressed in red and white in game four.
Sidney Crosby finally got off the schneid with his first goal in the series on a rush with an assist from Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh led 3-2 and would never look back.
Tyler Kennedy added an insurance goal to put the Pens up 4-2. That turned out to be the final score going into an uneventful third period.
Fatigue may have finally caught up with the Red Wings in this game. The way the Pens were able to block passes and tangle up the Wings’ sticks when they had the puck, it seemed like Detroit was playing against seven men on the ice.
Pittsburgh’s disruptive tactics were a huge factor in this game, forcing six Detroit turnovers, several of which set up the three goal surge in the second for the Penguins.
With four games in the books in these finals and the remainder of the series a best-of-three, I am reminded of other best of seven series I have seen in professional sports.
Will the resurgence of Malkin and Crosby allow Pittsburgh to duplicate the outcome of their series against the Washington Capitals, which they won 4-3 after being down 2-0?
Will Detroit come back energized with at least a somewhat effective Pavel Datsyuk and prevent a replay of their 2001 series against the Los Angeles Kings?
If you don’t remember, Detroit was up 2-0 in that series before the Kings won the next four games. Brendan Shanahan broke his foot after blocking a shot and Detroit sorely missed his production. The resemblance of the first four games of that series to the first four games of these finals is striking.
Detroit is hoping to have Datsyuk ready for game five, and if they cannot win the series in six games, they at least want to duplicate the efforts of the 1987 Minnesota Twins.
In the World Series that year, the home team won all games as Minnesota took the series 4-3 over the St. Louis Cardinals.