PITTSBURGH // Evgeni Malkin continued his superb postseason scoring spree leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings in Game Four of the Stanley Cup finals on Thursday. With both teams having held serve on home ice, the best-of-seven series now shifts back to the Motor City for Game Five on Saturday deadlocked at 2-2. A finalist for NHL most valuable player honours, Malkin has also put himself in line for the Conn Smythe trophy as the Stanley Cup MVP, scoring a goal and setting up another in the win to lead the play-off scoring race with 35 points. Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby also had a goal to break out of his finals scoring slump while Jordan Staal added a short-handed tally and Tyler Kennedy also found the back of the net.
The biggest concern for the Wings is the form of centre Henrik Zetterberg. "Zetterberg looks really tired," Pittsburgh defenceman Brooks Orpik said. Zetterberg simply looked worn out at times in Game Four, getting beaten to loose pucks and not skating as hard or fast as usual. The Red Wings hoped to give Zetterberg some relief from needing to score, hit, withstand being a target of checks, play on power plays and kill penalties with the return of the Russian Pavel Datsyuk.
But the much-needed help did not arrive because Datsyuk was scratched because of a foot injury, sidelining him for the sixth straight game. Zetterberg and the Red Wings can only hope Datsyuk is healthy enough to return for Game Five in Detroit and Game Six is on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Detroit's coach Mike Babcock said Zetterberg was not the only player who did not look like himself. "I didn't think Z and (Johan Franzen) had as much jump," Babcock said.
From the start of the series, Pittsburgh have clearly made a point of getting physical with Zetterberg. Sidney Crosby landed a huge hit on the Swede in the opener in what was the first of countless checks the Penguins have landed on him in open ice and against the boards. "I don't think it's any different than any other series," Zetterberg insisted. "It's a hitting game." When Detroit beat Pittsburgh and hoisted the Stanley Cup last year, Zetterberg was their best player and won play-off MVP honours. If the Red Wings are going to respond to losing their 2-0 lead in the series, the Swede will have to deliver again.
"He's done that in the past, and I know he can still do it," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. Lidstrom, though, acknowledged thinking if Zetterberg was wearing down after Game Three on Tuesday night. "I talked to him about it after the last game," Lidstrom said. "He said he felt fine even though he's playing a lot of minutes." * With agencies