PITTSBURGH – Sergei Gonchar said it once, then repeated it again a few seconds later as he tried pumping some confidence into some discouraged teammates: It’s not over.
Thanks to Gonchar’s power-play goal midway through the third period that revived the Penguins after the Detroit Red Wings pressed for the lead, the Stanley Cup finals are far from over for Pittsburgh following a 4-2 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday night.
Game 4, which could have been an elimination game for Pittsburgh, will be Thursday night. Either the defending champion Red Wings can take a stranglehold 3-1 advantage or the Penguins can make the finals a best-of-3 after losing the first two in Detroit.
Gonchar’s slap shot from center point off Evgeni Malkin’s pass sailed past Chris Osgood as Bill Guerin and Sidney Crosby screened the goalie.
“The power play was an unbelievable job by a handful of guys out there, keeping the play alive and giving Gonch a chance,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
The Penguins prevented the Red Wings from moving to within one victory of their fifth Stanley Cup since 1997.
Malkin assisted on the first three Penguins goals, giving him 33 points in 20 games, the most in the playoffs since Joe Sakic’s 34 in 22 games for Stanley Cup champion Colorado in 1996.
Gonchar and first-period scores by Max Talbot and Kris Letang gave the Penguins hope again, just as they did by winning Game 3 by 3-2 on a pair of Crosby goals in last year’s finals. The Red Wings went on to win that one in six.
Talbot added an empty-net score in the final minute.
The way they played for much of Game 3, it looked like Detroit was trying to win this one in three.
They outshot the Penguins 26-11 following a furious first two periods that featured 5-minute stretches of continuous up-and-down play, numerous scoring chances at both ends – and, the way the Red Wings kept pressuring, plenty of tentativeness by towel-waving Penguins fans nervous they might see the Penguins’ season effectively end.
“We talked after the second, we didn’t have a very good second period. We needed to calm down and get back to our game,” Bylsma said.
They did and Gonchar turned out to be right.
One of the few Penguins players at the rink on a day off Monday, he constantly repeated that the Penguins did enough right during their twin 3-1 losses in Detroit to encourage them. Guerin also downplayed the fact 31 of the previous 32 teams to win the first two games at home went on to win the series.
In the series’ first wide-open period, the Penguins finally began getting production from their secondary scorers as fourth-line center Talbot and Letang scored, but Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen scored for a 2-all tie after the first.
The Penguins were hoping to open up the play more at home before a sellout crowd decked out in white shirts, and they did that. But in creating more end-to-end play, Pittsburgh also made mistakes that led to goals. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made up for many of them, stopping 27 shots.
Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux dropped the ceremonial first puck. … Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was in the crowd, wearing a Sidney Crosby jersey, and numerous players including James Farrior and Hines Ward attended.
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