The Pittsburgh Penguins rekindled their flagging Stanley Cup dreams with a gritty 4-2 Game Three win over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, trimming the champions' lead in the best-of-seven finals to 2-1. Back at home after back-to-back 3-1 loses in Detroit, the Penguins clinched victory with a power-play goal in the third period by the defenceman Sergei Gonchar and a late empty netter from Max Talbot.
The Penguins will host Game Four on tonight with a chance to send the series back to the Motor City level at 2-2, but history continues to favour the Red Wings. Of the 32 times home teams have swept the first two games of the finals, only once have they failed to go on to lift the Stanley Cup. "It's a big win for us," said Talbot, who also scored Pittsburgh's first goal. "I don't want to say it was a must-win but I think everybody knows we needed to win this game.
"They're definitely a great team and they put us on our heels but luckily Flower [netminder Marc-Andre Fleury] was there. "I know in the first and second game he got criticised but I am really happy for him tonight because he was definitely first in my book." Some leaky goaltending in the opening two games when he surrendered a couple of soft goals had put the spotlight on the Pittsburgh netminder in the build-up to Tuesday's clash.
But Fleury responded with the solid effort expected from the former-first overall pick, particularly through the first two periods when the Red Wings outshot Pittsburgh 26-11 and looked to be the better side on the rink against their hosts. "It's just a great feeling to be back in the series, to finally get a first win," Fleury said. "Every night is going to be a battle but tonight was fun." Feeding off the energy from the capacity crowd, the Penguins generated early scoring chances and were rewarded for their industry when Talbot was left alone in the slot and sltted a feed fromEvgeni Malkin past Chris Osgood.
The Red Wings hit back 91 seconds later, with Henrik Zetterberg notching his 10th goal of the play-offs and then took the lead on Johan Franzen's power-play tally. The Penguins continued to battle, however, and Kris Letang netted a slapshot to send the teams into the first intermission tied at 2-2. After a scoreless second period, Gonchar broke the deadlock 10:29 into the third when he unleashed a rocket from just inside the blue line that whistled past a screened Osgood.
The final five minutes of the third were played at a furious pace as the Penguins pressed to deliver the knockout punch, which Talbot landed with 57 seconds left on the clock. "We've really just tried to keep things simple," the Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "When you've got a guy like Gonch (Gonchar) back there, we just try to get him the puck. "He's a big calming influence and came up with a big goal there for us."