PITTSBURGH – A rare short-handed goal crippled the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final, then a slew of turnovers and defensive gaffes finished them off.
Jordan Staal’s first of the series during a Detroit power play started a three-goal Pittsburgh outburst in a 5:37 span of the second period on Thursday night that helped the Penguins even the best-of-seven series 2-2.
“You never know what shift or play can turn the momentum one way or the other,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said after the turnover-filled 4-2 loss to the Penguins. “We had the game going pretty good.
“The crowd was pretty quiet. Then our power play hurt us for sure. They sucked the life out of us.”
Staal bulled past Brian Rafalski and deked goaltender Chris Osgood for the first short-handed goal allowed by Detroit in the playoffs in 41 games since the 2007 Western Conference final against Anaheim.
“They scored short-handed and in the next five minutes, I’d say we turned it over enough for a whole game,” said Babcock.
Then came rousing goals on the rush by Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy as the gifted young Penguins jumped on a tired-looking Detroit team that has been uncharacteristically generous with give-aways in the series thus far.
That is what captain Nicklas Lidstrom said must be corrected when the series switches back to Detroit for Game 5 on Saturday night.
“Especially against a talented team like that, they’re so quick going from defence to offence and they have players who can make plays,” said Lidstrom. “That’s why we have to cut down on the mistakes we made, like pinching at the wrong time, or losing the third player high to give them 3-on-2s.
“They’re good players and they’ll capitalize on those.”
The Red Wings were concerned with turnovers even while winning the opening two games by 3-1 scores, but they had a flood of them in this game, even if the official scoresheet listed only six giveaways by Detroit and eight by Pittsburgh.
Wings veteran Henrik Zetterberg, who has been Crosby’s shadow throughout the series, had a particularly rough game, leading to speculation that he is worn down. He lost the puck inside his own blue-line on Kennedy’s goal.
Zetterberg has also had extra ice time, more than 20 minutes per game, with star centre Pavel Datsyuk out with a foot injury.
“He’s playing a lot of minutes but he felt he still had the legs going late in the last game,” Lidstrom said of Zetterberg. “I don’t see that being a problem.
“He’s in great shape.”
The Red Wings players, who are older and harder hit by injuries, do not accept that fatigue has set in while playing the first four games over only six nights, although Babcock said his team can use a rest.
Osgood said it was simply a case of Pittsburgh’s star players making the most of Detroit’s errors.
“They don’t shoot as much as we do, but they can really pass it and they wait for their best chances,” said Osgood. “I’m going to make the highlight reel with that fourth one – not that I liked it.
“But what can I say? They got great goals from guys who are good players.”
A boost may come from the return of Hart Trophy candidate Datsyuk, who skated in the pre-game warm-up but at the last minute was held out of a seventh straight game. Datsyuk says his injured foot is healing and he is almost ready to play.