Game 4 Loss Spells Trouble For Penguins

In our series preview, we noted that this year’s Stanley Cup Finals would be a battle of experience versus youth.  Right now, experience has the strong upper hand as the Pittsburgh Penguins lost Game 4 to the Detroit Red Wings by a score of 2-1, and now trail 3-1 in the series.  The Red Wings are well positioned to win the Stanley Cup, and will try to do so on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.  For the Penguins to take home the Cup, they would need to be perfect and win the remaining 3-games of the series, including 2 in Detroit.  While still a possibility, the odds are stacked heavily against the Penguins at this point. 

Things looked good in the early going for the Penguins.  In the first period, they were afforded 3-power play opportunities and capitalized on one to grab an early 1-0 lead.  The goal came on the first penalty at 2:11 against Dallas Drake for roughing.  With the Penguins’ loaded powerplay on the ice, Sidney Crosby broke into the zone and circled around before passing the puck along the blue line to Sergei Gonchar.  Gonchar let a blast go that was stopped by Chris Osgood, but the rebound found the stick of Marian Hossa.  Hossa took the puck and looked as if he was going to circle around behind the net, but instead quickly tucked the puck in behind Osgood for the goal.  The Red Wings fought back, however, scoring a goal just 2-seconds after a penalty to Pascal Dupuis (cross-checking) had expired.  Veteran defenseman Niklas Lidstrom found room just inside the blueline and let a rocket go that beat a screened Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the game 1-1.  The Penguins were 1-for-3 on the powerplay and 1-for-1 on the kill, but were outshot 14-9 in the first period. 

Detroit Red Wings v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Four
Image details: Detroit Red Wings v Pittsburgh Penguins – Game Four served by picapp.com

The second period was a tightly played battle between both teams as the Penguins managed to outshoot the Red Wings 8-7.  Both teams were afforded just 1 powerplay, but neither were able to convert.  The Penguins had 3-really good chances during the period, but were stoned at every chance by Chris Osgood.  The first opportunity came at 3:24 as Crosby deflected the puck right in front of the net, but Osgood held on.  Then at 9:36, Pascal Dupuis had two excellent chances that were stopped by Osgood.  And again at 13:28, Sidney Crosby had an great chance on the backhand that was shut off by Osgood.  Despite it all, neither team scored in teh second and the 1-1 tie carried into the third period. Early in the third period, the Penguins got into trouble as they were unable to clear their zone.  The Red Wings took advantage of the opportunity, as Jiri Hudler flipped a dirty backhander that tipped off from Fleury’s shoulder and into the net to break the tie.  The Penguins had an outsanding opportunity to even the game back up in the middle of the period as they were afforded 1:26 of a 5-on-3 powerplay.  In a defining moment of the game, Henrik Zetterberg made an oustanding stick-on-stick defensive play on Sidney Crosby that prevented Crosby from tapping in the tying goal on the powerplay.  The Penguins ultimately failed to convert on the 5-on-3 opportunity, swinging the momentum decidedly to the Red Wings.  With time running out in the period, the Penguins made a frantic attempt to get the tying goal, but Osgood was equal to the challenge as he shut the door tight. 

Detroit Red Wings v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Four Image details: Detroit Red Wings v Pittsburgh Penguins – Game Four served by picapp.com

The loss, the Penguins first on home-ice in the playoffs,  was a disappointment for the Penguins who played a strong game, but failed to score at a critical point in the game to tie it up.  Unfortunately, the loss makes a huge difference in the series as the Penguins head back to Detroit down 3-1, rather than tied 2-2.  Evgeni Malkin continued to be frustrated with his play and inability to be the difference like he had been up until this series.  For Malkin, this is the longest season of hockey that he has ever seen, and it appears that he has possibly run out of gas.  Where Malkin has fizzled, Marian Hossa has stepped up and continues to shine in the playoffs.  Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 28-of-30 for a 0.933 save percentage, and had a good night in net. 

Game 5 will be played Monday night in Detroit, where the Red Wings will look to finish things off on their own ice and the Penguins will be battling to stay alive.  It will be a tall order for the Penguins to bounce back emotionally from the loss, and they will need to execute to perfection on the Red WIngs’ ice if they want to bring the series back to Pittsburgh. 

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