Short on time this morning, so this’ll be brief:
… I thought the Wings started out pretty well. There were a couple chances early that would have made nice goals, and aside from those, the action was pretty solid. It seemed to me that the Pens started taking over slightly around the 5:00 mark.
… But it was Detroit that got on the board first, with the help of the boards. A couple Pittsburgh turnovers in their own zone led to a Stuart shot that missed the net, hit the backboards, bounced back toward the front of the net, and went in off Fleury’s skate before making it there. A flukey goal, sure, but the Wings made their own luck in forcing the turnovers.
… Pittsburgh’s goal late in the period was the result of a Stuart turnover, unfortunately. Malkin intercepted a Stuart outlet pass off the boards, and turned it into a shot that Osgood stopped. He didn’t control the rebound terribly well, and Fedetenko was able to take advantage of the broken play caused by the Stuart TO by picking up the puck and putting it past Osgood. He was uncovered.
… Osgood had to be strong to start the second as the Wings were weak in their own end early on. He made what was probably the biggest save of the game at 3:24 of the period when Malkin got a breakaway after tripping Kronwall at the Pittsburgh blue line (apparently superstars are immune to the usual rules on tripping). Malkin tried to snipe it, and Osgood got his glove on it to keep it 1-1.
… The Wings went to the box at 4:38 when Lebda’s efforts to stick check a Penguin led to that Pens’ stick falling apart like straw. I’m all for calling the really viscious slashes that break sticks, but I honestly didn’t think Lebda hit it so hard. Considering how easily these things break, it’s probably excessive to assume every time one breaks it’s worth a penalty. Anyway, the Wings killed it off very well, with Helm standing out once again.
… At 7:05, Jordan Staal demonstrated his diving technique when he felt Samuelsson’s hand on his shoulder. Maybe it was a holding penalty, but Staal went down way too early and way too demonstratively. I wish the officials still enough self-respect to call diving. It’s really a slap to their face every time.
… Let’s remember that this whole time, Pittsburgh is setting picks (interference) on top of holding, tripping and elbowing (Crosby’s center ice encounter with Zetterberg). On some of them, even NBC was expecting a penalty. They finally got slapped with one at 13:44, but they got away with one of the most egregious penalties of the night when Cooke headhunted Holmstrom with his elbow well after the whistle.
… Late in the period, the Wings came at Pittsburgh pretty hard, and it paid off with another fortunte bounce. This time, it was a Rafalski shot that came hard off the boards. Franzen played it well and threw it at back toward Fleury, who kicked it in with his leg.
… The third was a lot of Pittsburgh, to be honest. The Wings had their stretches, though, and were able to make it a 2-goal lead at 2:46 when a pressure shift by the fourth line led to Justin Abdelkader pulling his own rebound out of the air and down to his stick before putting the puck in the net. That unit had a very strong third, I thought.
… Pittsburgh came hard after the goal, and forced the Wings to play defense much of the rest of the period. The Wings nearly made it 4-1 on a late flurry involving the fourth line, and then again with the empty net, but the couldn’t seal it until time expired.
… A good start, though I’d be less generous with that had they played the same way and lost. They’ve got to be better today.
I don’t have time for a full three-key preview, but I can say that for Pittsburgh, the big key will be forechecking. That killed the Wings at times last night.
For Detroit, it’ll be a more general “killer work ethic.” If the Wings work their butts off and keep their feet moving, they’ll both get to the puck first and be able to establish their puck possession game, and they should be able to draw some penalties.
… No word on Datsyuk’s status yet, but I’m having my doubts that he’ll be back tonight. I hope I’m wrong.
I’ll be at my in-laws today, with limited access to the computer, so I may or may not be around until sometime before the puck drops.