PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins had had enough of history repeating itself.
Meeting the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup final for the second year in a row, the Penguins lost the first two games on the road before winning Game 3 at Mellon Arena – just like last season.
Consider history rewritten. Instead of falling in Game 4 like a year ago, the Penguins defeated the Red Wings 4-2 on Thursday night to even the best-of-7 series at two games apiece. Game 5 will be Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Pittsburgh rode the momentum of Jordan Staal’s short-handed goal in the second period to erase a 2-1 deficit and added two more for a total of three unanswered goals in a span of 5 minutes 37 seconds to help goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (37 saves) get the victory.
Staal, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby all had a goal and an assist, while Tyler Kennedy also scored for the Penguins.
After falling behind on goals by Darren Helm and Brad Stuart, the Penguins seized the momentum with Staal’s short-handed score midway through the second. With teammate Brooks Orpik in the box for tripping, Staal took a nice feed from Maxime Talbot, raced into the Detroit zone, skated around defenseman Brian Rafalski and beat Wings goaltender Chris Osgood with a forehand to the stick side.
“Max made a great play,” said Staal, whose short-hander was the first the Wings had allowed in 41 playoff games. “I saw (Nicklas) Lidstrom and Rafalski both kind of flat-footed, so I buried my head, went for it and kind of snuck it in.”
“That big bronc, Staal, it’s tough to contain a big guy like that,” Talbot said. “He was flying. Obviously, it’s a momentum-changer.”
Malkin and Crosby hooked up on a 2-on-1 less than two minutes later, with Crosby finishing for a 3-2 Pittsburgh lead. Malkin hit Crosby with a pass at the left post, and the Penguins captain tapped it in.
Pittsburgh made it 4-2 just 3 1/2 minutes later on a pretty passing play. Chris Kunitz found Crosby in the right circle, and he sent a touch pass to Kennedy at the left post. Kennedy tipped it in to complete the scoring.
Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead on Malkin’s power-play goal less than three minutes into the game. With Niklas Kronwall off for tripping, Staal fired a shot that Osgood stopped. The rebound scooted to defenseman Kris Letang, who took a shot that missed the net. The puck caromed to Malkin lurking near the right net post, where he back-handed it home.
Detroit was again without MVP finalist Pavel Datsyuk. The veteran center has missed seven games with a foot injury.
“When we went down 2-0 last year, we were kind of shell shocked and we knew we weren’t the better team,” Orpik said. “After the first couple of games (in this series), we felt we played really well and deserved at least a split in Detroit. … It feels a lot different than last year.”
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