The Pittsburgh Penguins managed to get back into the Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday night with a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Besides the simple fact that Pittsburgh actually scored a goal, the Penguins did a few other things much better in their return to Mellon Arena.
1. Crosby, Malkin, and Hossa led the way – Unlike the first two games in Detroit, the Penguins’ stars showed up. Crosby didn’t play poorly in Detroit, but he made up for any doubts with his two goals against the Wings. Malkin was non-existent in Detroit, but he created some opportunities for his line. Hossa had two assists.
2. The Penguins carried the puck – In Detroit, the Penguins settled for dumping the puck deep on almost every offensive possession. The “dump and chase” system only works with a legitimate “chase.” Pittsburgh didn’t get that in the opening two games because of Detroit’s excellent defense. In Game 3, the Penguins carried the puck over the blue line and challenged the defense to play the man instead of just retrieving dump-ins.
3. Brooks Orpik – The man had likely the greatest shift of his career midway through the third period. It personified the extra jump the Penguins played with all night. For the first time in the series, Pittsburgh was the team getting to the loose pucks. They forced Detroit to speed up its tempo, which led to mistakes.
4. The bounces went Pittsburgh’s way – As a side effect to the quicker tempo, the Penguins were able to capitalize on those 50/50 bounces that went 100 percent against them in Detroit. On Wednesday, the Penguins capitalized on a careless turnover for their first goal and had Adam Hall do his best Mario Lemieux impression for the eventual game-winner. Detroit also hit the post on a wide-open net.
Because of these things, the Penguins find themselves in the thick of the Stanley Cup Finals once again. The Penguins haven’t lost at home since February. And with Game 4 once again at Mellon Arena tomorrow night, it’s not totally unrealistic to think this series could boil down to the best-of-three. Can the Penguins win (or score) in Detroit? That remains to be seen. If the Penguins continue to win at home, anything is possible in a Game 7 scenario.