DETROIT (AP) - The Red Wings found a perfect way to move halfway to a repeat --beat the Pittsburgh Penguins back-to-back.
So much for Detroit being old, beaten down and needing a break.The Red Wings topped the Penguins 3-1 in Game 2 of the finalsSunday night and are two wins from holding onto the StanleyCup.
Just as they did a year ago in winning the title for the 11thtime and fourth in 11 seasons, the Red Wings took the first twogames from the Penguins at home. This year posed a new challenge,sweeping a pair on consecutive nights three days after finishingthe Western Conference finals.
Rookie defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who watched that seriesclincher Wednesday night in the dressing room hours after havinghis appendix removed, scored the tying goal for Detroit in thesecond period.
Valtteri Filppula added the go-ahead tally 6:08 later, andJustin Abdelkader scored his second of the series in the third. TheRed Wings left the ice in front of their cheering, towel-wavingfans and headed for Pittsburgh with another commanding lead.
Game 3 is Tuesday night, and the odds favor the Red Wings' questto become the NHL's first repeat champion since they did it in 1997and '98. Teams that win Games 1 and 2 at home have captured the Cup31 of 32 times.
Frustration boiled over for Pittsburgh with 18.2 seconds left,when Max Talbot stuck his stick in goalie Chris Osgood's midsectionafter he made his 31st save. That led to a fight between EvgeniMalkin and Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg that left bothplayers' jerseys torn on the ice.
The Penguins, who dropped the opener 3-1 on Saturday night,played better in this two-game set compared to a year ago whenvirtually the whole roster experienced the finals for the firsttime.
Malkin had a strong first period and staked Pittsburgh to anearly 1-0 lead. It just wasn't enough as Detroit -- especiallyZetterberg -- bottled up captain Sidney Crosby and kept himpointless for the second straight night.
Crosby sent a perfect feed from behind the net to Bill Guerin,whose bid to tie the game in the second period was foiled when thepuck struck the inside of the left post. Crosby was denied by theleft post at the other end, less than 2 minutes into the third, ano-goal confirmed by video replay.
Crosby let out a disgusted spit from the bench as theannouncement was made.
Just over a minute later, Abdelkader sealed the win with hissecond NHL goal and second in two nights. Not bad for a rookie whohails from Michigan.
Abdelkader carried the puck into the Pittsburgh end whileDetroit made a line change and had it knocked off his stick by HalGill. Abdelkader stayed with the bounding puck while guarded by RobScuderi and took a whack at it -- sending a shot fluttering pastMarc-Andre Fleury's glove 2:47 into the third.
Osgood outplayed Fleury again in earning his 73rd NHL playoffvictory, eighth on the career list.
Ericsson tied it 1-1 at 4:21 of the second after Darren Helm wona faceoff in the left circle.
Just 14 seconds after Malkin left the penalty box, Filppulabackhanded in a rebound of Marian Hossa's shot. Fleury never sawthe original shot through Tomas Holmstrom's screen, and couldn'tstop Filppula's drive because Malkin pushed Holmstrom into him.
After shutting out the Penguins by a combined 7-0 score in thefirst two games of last year's finals, the nicked-up Red Wings bentbut didn't break. And they did it again without injured forwardsPavel Datsyuk, their leading scorer in the regular season, andfour-time champion Kris Draper.
The Penguins needed nearly 7 minutes before Kris Letang recordedthe team's first shot, but Pittsburgh finished the period with aflourish -- outshooting the Red Wings 9-0 to close the frame.
They took advantage when Niklas Kronwall was sent off forcross-checking Talbot, the only penalty called in the first.
During a scramble in front, Letang slipped the puck out of ascrum and into the slot to Malkin. The NHL's regular-season scoringchampion -- and playoff leader with 30 points -- let go a drivethat was batted in the air by defenseman Brad Stuart and pastOsgood with 3:10 left in the period.
Malkin's power-play tally gave him seven goals in six games and13 during the postseason, one behind Crosby for the leaguelead.
After going a club-record 13 straight games of allowing apower-play goal, the Red Wings were perfect in five short-handedsituations the previous two games.
Stuart also was victimized on Pittsburgh's only goal in theseries opener. He turned over the puck to Malkin, leading to arebound score by Ruslan Fedotenko. Notes: Pittsburgh D PhilippeBoucher was scratched from the lineup and replaced by LW PascalDupuis. The Penguins had been using seven defensemen. ... Fedotenkohad a three-game goal streak snapped. ... Detroit is 10-1 at homein the playoffs. ... The Red Wings are 6-0 in Game 2s of the finalssince losing to Montreal in 1954, outscoring opponents 25-9.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All RightsReserved.)
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