PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin took turns leaving the ice in anger and frustration after the opening two games of the Stanley Cup final in Detroit.
But Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is confident both of his star centres will have their minds only on hockey for Game 3, when the best-of-seven series resumes at Mellon Arena on Tuesday night (CBC, 8 p.m. ET).
The Red Wings lead the series on a pair of 3-1 home wins despite being outshot in both games and out-chanced in Game 2, thanks mostly to stellar goaltending from Chris Osgood.
“We haven’t got the results we wanted, but right to the end of both games we stuck to our game plan and kept going,” Bylsma said Monday. “We’re emotionally attached, but I don’t see the frustration lasting longer than getting to the bench and getting ready for the next shift.”
Still, the Penguins made neither Crosy nor Malkin available to the media on a day of off-ice work only for the team. Bylsma said he preferred to give other players the spotlight for a day.
At the end of Game 1 on Saturday, Crosby whacked Kirk Maltby on the skates and got into a verbal exchange with the Detroit veteran.
And with 12 seconds left in Game 2 on Sunday, Malkin jumped into a melee in front of the Detroit net and got into a fight with centre Henrik Zetterberg.
Malkin was given an instigator penalty, which calls for a one-game ban when it happens in the last five minutes of a game. But NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell rescinded the suspension because it was not a retaliation or intended to serve as a message for the next game.
Bylsma said Malkin knows full well he will have to be more in control in future.
“Gino is emotional,” the coach said. “We talked to him numerous times – that these are situations you may get yourself into.
“They try to come after you in different situations throughout the playoffs. He has to make sure you make sure to keep it in check. We’re not going to talk about it again. We’ve talked about it a couple of times with Gino.”
This marks the second straight year these two teams have met in the Stanley Cup final and the second straight year the Penguins come home from Detroit down 2-0 in the series. Last spring, the Red Wings went on to win in six games.
Last time around, the awestruck Penguins failed to score a goal in the opening two games. This time, they have been more than a match for the Red Wings in every area except in goal and on the scoresheet.
Crosby once again returned home without a point, but Sunday he hit a goalpost and had a perfect setup to winger Bill Guerin, who also hit the post. Crosby also broke through the defence in the third period, only to be robbed on a pad save by Osgood.
Malkin had an assist in Game 1 and a first-period goal one night later on a shot that hit the post, off defenceman Brad Stuart and into the net. He was also stopped while in alone at key times in each game by Osgood, who has to be the easy frontrunner for the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs.
Crosby’s linemate Chris Kunitz said he has no worries that the Penguins will be a better team on home ice.
“There’s a bit of frustration, but that’s the emotion of the game,” he said. “At home with different matchups, it’ll be a little more comfortable for us.”
Last year, Crosby set the tone early in Game 3 as the Penguins got back into the series. He may need to do the same this time around.
As the home team gets to send its players on to the ice last, Bylsma will also be able to get Crosby away from the tight checking of Zetterberg.
But Bylsma feels whoever is on the ice, the first task is to make life more difficult for Osgood and the Detroit defence, which is not fully healthy with star Nicklas Lidstrom and rookie Jonathan Ericsson still getting back up to speed from recent injuries. The Red Wings are also missing Pavel Datsyuk, perhaps the league’s best two-way centre.
“The large difference in the two games is that they’ve been better at the net than we have,” said Bylsma. “They’ve had a better net-front presence.
“They’ve won the loose pucks and they’ve scored those scramble goals. That’s been the difference in the two games and that’s something we’ll have to do better.”
That’s why Bylsma defended goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been unable to match Osgood’s brilliance. Fleury looked especially weak Sunday as unlikely fourth-line player Justin Abdelkader scored in the third period – on a long shot to the top corner – for a second game in a row.
Fleury was another who was given a break from media interviews.
“When you evaluate the goals, every one of them has been with people in the crease, bouncing pucks, scramble situations,” said Bylsma. “They’ve been very good in that area.
“They make it very difficult on the goaltender and defenders because they have guys standing in the blue paint a lot. We need to do a better job of protecting that part of the net for our goalie and to do a better job at the other end – to make sure we’re in that area and getting those loose pucks, because that’s been the difference.”