Gonchar leads confident Pens past Wings
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) ” Sergei Gonchar said it once, then repeated it again a few seconds later as he tried pumping some confidence into some discouraged teammates: It’s not over.
Thanks to Gonchar’s power-play goal midway through the third period that revived the Penguins after Detroit pressed for the lead and Marc-Andre Fleury’s strong work in goal, the Stanley Cup finals are far from over for Pittsburgh following a 4-2 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday night.
Game 4, which could have been an elimination game for Pittsburgh, will be Thursday night. Either the defending champion Red Wings can take a stranglehold 3-1 advantage or the Penguins can make the finals a best-of-three after losing the first two in Detroit.
“This series is where it should be,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
Gonchar’s slap shot from center point off Evgeni Malkin’s pass sailed past Chris Osgood as Bill Guerin and Sidney Crosby screened the goalie, Pittsburgh’s ninth consecutive shot to start the third after being outshot 26-11 in the first two. The Penguins were 2 for 3 with the man advantage, with defenseman Kris Letang also scoring in the first.
“The (Gonchar) power play was an unbelievable job by a handful of guys out there, keeping the play alive and giving Gonch a chance,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
The decisive power play was created by an interference call on Jonathan Ericsson, with Babcock saying, “At that point, they took over. They got the power play in the third and we didn’t.”
Fourth-line center Max Talbot scored twice, including an empty-netter, as the Penguins prevented the Red Wings from moving to within one victory of their fifth Stanley Cup since 1997.
“It’s great to be back in this series,” said Fleury, who shook off two unsteady games in Detroit.
It’s also a repeat of last year, when the Penguins won 3-2 in Game 3 after losing the first two on the road. Detroit went on to win in six.
The way they played for much of Game 3, with Henrik Zetterberg and John Franzen scoring in the first to give them a 2-1 lead, it looked like the Red Wings was trying to win this one in three.
“I don’t want to say this was a must-win game, but everybody knows we needed to win this game,” Talbot said.
Malkin assisted on the first three Penguins goals, giving him 33 points in 20 games, the most in the playoffs since Joe Sakic’s 34 in 22 games for Stanley Cup champion Colorado in 1996.
The Red Wings were so dominating at times the Penguins once had six men on the ice for nearly a half minute without it being detected. There were five-minute stretches of continuous up-and-down play, numerous scoring chances at both ends ” and, the way the Red Wings kept pressuring, plenty of tentativeness by towel-waving Penguins fans nervous they might see the Penguins’ season effectively end.
“We talked after the second, we didn’t have a very good second period. We needed to calm down and get back to our game,” Bylsma said.
They did, and Gonchar turned out to be right.
One of the few Penguins players at the rink on a day off Monday, Gonchar constantly repeated that the Penguins did enough right during their twin 3-1 losses in Detroit to encourage them. He and Guerin also downplayed the fact 31 of the previous 32 teams to win the first two games at home went on to win the series.
“Gonch has that about him,” Crosby said. “He’s a calming influence. He’s calm no matter the situation.”
Crosby, the Penguins’ 21-year-old captain, again didn’t have a breakout game ” he has one assist in three games ” but, at least for one night, it didn’t matter as the Penguins finally began getting production from their secondary scorers.
The Penguins were hoping to open up the play more at home before a sellout crowd decked out in white shirts, and they did that. But in creating more end-to-end play, Pittsburgh also made numerous mistakes. Fleury made up for many of them, and also allowed no soft goals after giving up several in the first two games.
Zetterberg played another strong game, helping limit Crosby’s chances despite not being matched as regularly against him as Pittsburgh had the final line change, but the Red Wings couldn’t find the net after the frantic first period ended with a 2-all tie.
The second period was even faster than the first, although there were no goals. The pace was so fast, the fans who booed forward Marian Hossa whenever he was on the ice in the first stopped doing so. Hossa left Pittsburgh after last season to sign with Detroit.
Notes: Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux dropped the ceremonial first puck, a chore performed by Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay before Game 1 in Detroit. … Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was in the crowd, wearing a Crosby jersey, and numerous players including James Farrior and Hines Ward attended. … Pittsburgh took four of the first five shots, but Detroit had 25 of the next 32.