DETROIT – NHL history suggests that the Detroit Red Wings are shoo-ins to win the Stanley Cup now.
Brad Stuart, Tomas Holmstrom and Valtteri Filppula scored the goals and Chris Osgood blanked the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second straight game, 3-0 on the heels of a 4-0 rout in the opener, as the Red Wings took a stranglehold on the championship series Monday night.
“I don’t like bragging about myself very much,” said the modest Osgood, who is looking more and more like a playoff MVP. “I’ve played some good games in my career and I feel pretty good about myself right now.”
The all-time championship series record of home clubs winning the first two games is 30-1. The 1970-71 Chicago Blackhawks were the only team to blow a 2-0 lead built at home, losing to Montreal in seven games.
The series shifts to Pittsburgh for games Wednesday and Saturday (8 p.m. ET both nights). The Penguins are 8-0 at home in the playoffs so maybe they’ll get their act together at Mellon Arena.
They’ll start Game 3 on their longest goalless stretch all season – 135 minutes 57 seconds.
Pittsburgh hadn’t been blanked two games in a row since February 2003.
“I know my players are frustrated right now,” said Penguins coach Michel Therrien.
The Wings were bolstered in Game 2 by the return of Johan Franzen, who had 12 goals and 15 points in 11 games before headaches caused him to sit out the last seven, and the Penguins got some added grit with Gary Roberts back in the lineup.
Franzen had an immediate impact. He helped screen Marc-Andre Fleury when Stuart opened the scoring at 6:55 with a slap shot Fleury couldn’t see.
“Mule was out front creating havoc,” Stuart said.
It was the defenceman’s first goal this post-season.
“This is the time of year a team gets some unexpected goals, and that’s the sign of a good team,” said Stuart.
Franzen said he felt good in his first action since Game 1 of the Western Conference final May 8 against Dallas.
“I felt OK,” said Franzen. “I felt a little bit better than I expected. So it’s good to be back in again. I really missed it. It’s a lot of fun.”
Franzen admitted he couldn’t get into his normal pre-game routine.
“I usually take a nap but I didn’t get any sleep,” said Franzen. “I was excited. My first final. A lot of adrenaline going, a lot of fun. I’m just thrilled to be playing.”
Holmstrom doubled Detroit’s lead at 11:18 off a scramble. Shots on goal were 8-0 at this stage. They were 12-6 after 20 minutes.
Line changes made by Therrien, including the insertion of Ryan Malone in place of Pascal Dupuis on the first line with Sidney Crosby and Marian Hossa, didn’t pan out.
Detroit checking was smothering the Penguins, who managed one shot on Osgood through the first 10 minutes of the middle period. The Red Wings controlled play for such long stretches that it was a game of keepaway at times.
“Sometimes we get lulled into just standing around a bit, and they play well positionally,” said Crosby. “When we’re not at our best, we’re just kind of playing a chess match with them.
“It’s a game of mistakes then. If we don’t capitalize and they do, then we’re in trouble.”
The Penguins tried to dump the puck behind Detroit defencemen and rush in but Nick Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Stuart were quick to feed it up the ice to the forwards to thwart the Pittsburgh forechecking.
Detroit had an 11-6 shots edge in the second period.
Filppula made it 3-0 at 8:48 of the third with a dazzling display of stickhandling. The Finnish centre wove his way around defenceman Kris Letang and swept the puck past Fleury as he was being tripped to the ice.
A couple of minutes later, Roberts stuck a fist in Franzen’s face, and France went down as if mortally wounded. He was fine. Roberts wasn’t penalized and Franzen didn’t miss a shift.
Petr Sykora threw a shoulder into Osgood and knocked him to the ice with just over a minute remaining. A 10-minute misconduct was assessed against Roberts after a lot of pushing and shoving.
“He’s a good actor,” Therrien said of Osgood. “He goes to players and he’s diving.”
Osgood ignored the criticism.
“I’ ve been called worse,” he said. “I’m not really concerned about it.
“The minute the buzzer goes, it’s out of my head.”
At the final buzzer, Pittsburgh’s Max Talbot was assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty for trying to go after anybody in red wearing skates. Like his teammates and coach, he felt Osgood was embellishing the hit by Sykora.
“We don’t play soccer in here,” he said.
Therrien also accused the Red Wings of employing obstruction to slow his players.
“It’s tough to generate any offence,” he complained. “They’re good at (obstruction).”
Detroit had an 11-10 shots edge in the third, winding up ahead 34-22 at the end.
“(Osgood) knows he’s not going to get a ton of rubber but the rubber he does get he’s got to be there for,” said coach Mike Babcock. “He’s playing well, and our team is, too.”
Red Wings fans in the Joe Louis Arena crowd of 20,000 left shouting their approval.
“It was really hot in the building,” said centre Kris Draper.
“You could really feel it,” he said. “We try go short and hard and play at a high tempo.”
Babcock had some bad news for the Penguins: he says his team can improve in Game 3.
“We’re going to play better,” said Babcock. “We’ve been a good road team all year.
“We’re going to have a real good game in Pittsburgh. We’re excited to get on the road.”
Notes: Pittsburgh was 0-for-3 and Detroit 0-for-8 on power plays. … Crosby had five shots on Osgood, but Evgeni Malkin didn’t get one. He hasn’t had a shot on Osgood in the last five periods. … Pittsburgh had a 39-29 hits advantage. … First periods have been the Red Wings’ best throughout the playoffs and they have now outscored opponents 25-8 in their 18 games. … Detroit improved to 12-1 when leading after first periods. … Detroit deleted Darren McCarty to make room for Franzen, who had scored 27 goals in 27 games – including 11 game-winners – before being told by doctors on May 10 that he needed to be free of the concussion-like symptoms that were bothering him. … Detroit defenceman Chris Chelios sat out a third straight game as a healthy scratch. … Pittsburgh dropped Georges Laraque so Roberts could play. Roberts was a healthy scratch in Game 1 after missing three getting over a bout of pneumonia.