Red Wings’ PK puts Cup chances at risk
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) ” The Detroit Red Wings have put themselves in a position to win another NHL title despite an awful rate of failure as penalty killers.
If Detroit doesn’t fare better when the Pittsburgh Penguins have an extra skater, though, its weakness might end up costing it the Stanley Cup.
The Red Wings rank 14th out of the 16 teams that began the playoffs in penalty killing, successfully preventing teams from scoring just .714 percent of the time. On the road, its success rate dips to .655 percent to lead only the Montreal Canadiens this postseason.
“It’s not even the percentage, it’s when you give them up,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday. “Last night we needed a kill, without any question, when it was a 2-2 game.”
Sergei Gonchar broke the tie with a power-play goal midway through the third period and Pittsburgh went on to win 4-2 to cut its deficit to 2-1 in the series.
The Penguins converted two of their three chances on the power play, and they’re hoping to have an extra skater even more Thursday night at home in Game 4.
Sidney Crosby said the key to putting the Red Wings in the box is using speed to get through the neutral zone and to dump the puck deep in Detroit’s end.
“When you put teams back on their heels they’re chasing, and they have to take penalties,” Crosby said. “The more often we can get puck possession and things like that, that’s going to draw more penalties. We’ve just got to do more of that.”
Detroit set a dubious NHL playoff record by giving up at least one power-play goal in 13 straight games earlier this postseason and its penalty killers have allowed at least one goal in 15 of 19 games.
“We have to get in the shooting lanes,” Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “And when we get to the puck, we need to get it down 200 feet instead of trying to make the play.”
WORDSMITH COACH: Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has authored or co-written four books, one about what it takes for a young player to make the NHL, so finding the right word usually isn’t a problem.
When asked how it feels like to be coaching in the Stanley Cup finals less than four months after taking over the Penguins, Bylsma wished for a larger vocabulary.
“I think the English language doesn’t do a very good job of wrapping up the emotions that you can have,” Bylsma said. “Do I enjoy this? Absolutely. Is it kick my feet up, have a cool drink with a fruit in it? It’s not that kind of enjoyment. But as a competitor, as a coach, this is exactly where I want to be enjoying my time.”
The Penguins are 31-10-4, counting the playoffs, since Bylsma inherited a team that was not among the Eastern Conference’s top nine in mid February.
“It is strenuous? Is it gut wrenching? Is it continually focusing on the next thing and what we need to do and what the players and team need? Yeah, there’s a lot of that going on,” Bylsma said. “But it’s an absolutely wonderful situation to be in.”
‘D’ WORD: Mark Messier knows what it takes to be part of a dynasty, helping the Edmonton Oilers win five Stanley Cups from 1984-1990.
Detroit is two wins away from its fifth championship in 12 seasons ” and second since post-lockout rules forced the franchise to cut about half its payroll ” to perhaps solidify its standing as a dynasty.
“If they win this year, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it a dynasty,” Messier said before watching Game 3 in a suite with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Detroit’s streak of 18 straight playoff appearances is the longest in sports, easily ahead of the streaks made by the San Antonio Spurs (11), Indianapolis Colts (seven) and the four baseball teams who have earned spots in the past two postseasons.
“It’s impressive, especially with the challenges of the salary cap and not being able to draft high, and still getting players to replenish the roster,” he said. “Instead of getting older and banged-up, they are blending in players who are younger to make the team stronger.”
THREE BLIND MICE?: The Penguins chuckled at a break that went their way in Game 3, playing about 20 seconds in the first period with six skaters and not getting a penalty called.
Pittsburgh had a power play soon after the officials missed the call for too many men on the ice, and took advantage with a goal that made it 2-2.
“They got away with one there, but we are not going to make excuses and say that’s why we lost the game,” Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
ONE-TIMERS: In Game 3, the Pens outhit Detroit 36-17, blocked 13 more shots and had six more takeaways. … MVP finalist Alex Ovechkin, poker professional Chris Moneymaker and fans are scheduled to be in a charity poker tournament on June 17 during the 2009 NHL Awards celebration in Las Vegas. … Tom Barnett won the inaugural 2009 Bridgestone Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award and a $5,000 grant, honoring his contributions to the Shamrock Hockey Club in Buffalo, N.Y.