The assumed dominance by the Red Wings in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final took a hit on Thursday in Game Four, when they were defeated 4-2 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The win by the Pens in a rowdy Mellon Arena tied the series 2-2.
The sense of urgency and calm has gripped Red Wing Nation. No one predicted a sweep by the Wings to begin with, however, no one expected them to give up four goals in a game before the third period.
The play by the Wings in Game Four represents a team starting to tire. The strategy of Zetterberg clinging to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin has him worn out defensively as well as slowed his offensive push.
The absence of 2009 Hart, Selke and Lady Byng finalist Pavel Datsyuk has been the biggest issue affecting the Wings.
He is the best two-way player in hockey and is center of record on power plays and shorthanded situations. His face-off skills are only matched by Kris Draper.
If Pavel Datsyuk cannot return Saturday, the Wings could be in trouble. Zetterberg is worn out and the play of rookies Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino can only do so much.
The first goal of the game was by Malkin. He was not guarded as he skated behind the net to hit in the rebound for the first goal two minutes into the game. The goal in retrospect was an omen for what was to come in the second period.
Darren Helm answered with Detroit's first goal with less than two minutes left in the first period. A scrum did form in front of the net to screen Marc-Andre Fleury, which aided Helm's simple wrister.
Brad Stuart's goal, which was 46 seconds into the second period, was aided by Sergei Gonchar and Bill Guerin screening their own goalie. Even though it gave the Wings the lead, that advantage would only last eight minutes.
A complete and uncharacteristic breakdown in defensive play by the Wings would soon follow.
Jordan Staal skated right past Brian Rafalski on a breakaway to score the Pens' second goal (shorthanded) eight minutes into the second period. Brooks Orpik was serving two minutes for tripping at the time of the goal.
About two minutes later, Malkin and Crosby were skating on a breakaway with only Jonathan Ericsson from the Wings defending them.
When Ericsson went down to block the pass, Malkin read it perfectly to pass to an open Crosby on Chris Osgood's stick side for their third goal.
Four minutes after that, a pinball passing clinic by Crosby and Chris Kunitz made Osgood move from right to left so Tyler Kennedy had an open net on Osgood's stick side. Once again, the Pens caught the Wings sleeping on defense to put the game away.
For the Wings to give up three goals in about six minutes in the Stanley Cup Final is unheard of. This team does not make these kind of mistakes. Yet in Game Four, they were were lucky the scoring stopped after the Kennedy goal, as it could have been a lot worse.
Game Five must be their game. It is home at Joe Louis Arena. Datsyuk is to playing this time around. Other than Helm and Abdelkader, everyone else on the Wings is due for a breakout game of goals and presence on the ice.
Marian Hossa needs to start lighting the lamp so when the series goes back to Pittsburgh; they will really be booing. Zetterberg needs to get back to scoring his wraparounds.
Kronwall needs hit someone to put his stamp on this Final. The defense needs to wake up and bring the noise to anyone who crosses the blue line into their zone.
Joe Louis Arena will be rocking for this game. It is time for the Wings to get a hold of the reins and take back the Final in their favor.