DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings just keep finding ways to win at the Stanley Cup.
Outchanced for a second straight game and still battling injuries, the Red Wings managed to grab a commanding 2-0 series lead with a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. "Their team is playing hard. They played us real hard. We feel real good about having held serve at home," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Chris Osgood was rock solid in net once again with 31 saves and the goals came from a trio of players currently assuming bigger roles in the post-season than they had from October to April - Jonathan Ericsson, Valtteri Filppula and Justin Abdelkader.
The victory greatly increased the odds that those guys will soon have their names inscribed on the NHL's championship trophy. Teams winning the first two games of the Stanley Cup on home ice have gone on to take the series 31 of 32 times.
Evgeni Malkin replied for Pittsburgh, which will look to rebound on home ice starting with Game 3 on Tuesday night.
"We're going to go into a tough building, in their building. I've been impressed with how hard they've played. Right throughout they're lineup, they've put a lot of heat on us at times," Babcock said.
Even though the Penguins are trailing the Wings 2-0 in the Stanley Cup final for the second straight spring, the similarities between the series end there. Pittsburgh outshot the Wings in both games this time around and arguably deserved a victory here - if not two.
"We had stretches where we played good. We got scoring chances and pucks around the net and we didn't capitalize on them when we needed to," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "They got timely goals and they got goals in and around our net and ended up with the victory."
A series of unlucky breaks, timely saves from Osgood and non-calls from the referees kept Pittsbugh from the win column.
"By no means can we say that we've outplayed them," Osgood said. "The first two games they've given us everything we can handle."
It was the first time since 1955 that Stanley Cup games were played on back-to-back nights and some of the fatigue showed early on.
The opening period was nowhere near as physical or intense as the hockey played in Saturday's Game 1 victory by Detroit - although it began to pick up late. That's when the Red Wings began turning over the puck over and allowing the Penguins to create some scoring chances.
Malkin found a streaking Ruslan Fedotenko with a nice pass, but the winger missed the net with his shot.
A few minutes later, Niklas Kronwall was penalized for cross-checking Maxime Talbot and the Penguins power play went to work. There was a long scramble around Osgood before Malkin's shot bounced off Red Wings defenceman Brad Stuart and into the net at 16:50.
It was his 13th goal of these playoffs and Malkin celebrated it by jumping into the arms of his teammates.
The flashy Russian had a glorious opportunity to get No. 14 in the opening minutes of the second period, but he couldn't lift the puck over Osgood's glove from the top of the crease.
That would come back to haunt the Penguins as Detroit soon turned up the heat and tied the game. Darren Helm won a faceoff in the offensive zone and went straight to the net to screen Marc-Andre Fleury while Ericsson's point shot went in at 4:21.
Joe Louis Arena was jumping and the home team kept coming.
Filppula put Detroit ahead 2-1 at 10:29 after a couple potential penalties went uncalled. Marian Hossa broke Pascal Dupuis' stick with a slash and Tomas Holmstrom ended up on top of Fleury after a bump from Malkin - just moments before Filppula lifted the puck into the top of the net.
It was the second goal of the post-season for the Finn, who is filling in for the injured Pavel Datsyuk on the team's second line.
The Penguins responded quickly and had a couple glorious chances to tie the game. Bill Guerin hit the post after taking a nice pass from Crosby and then shot wide a few moments later when the Penguins captain found him alone in front again.
Pittsburgh was finding success in the offensive zone by getting pressure on the Red Wings defencemen and forcing turnovers, but it still trailed by a goal at the second intermission. That was an ominous sign as the Red Wings carried a 10-0 record in these playoffs when leading after two periods.
A little good fortune helped them keep the perfect mark intact.
Crosby hit the post early in the third period and then had his rebound chance stopped by a diving Henrik Zetterberg, who appeared to grab the puck in the crease for the second straight game. Again, no penalty shot was awarded.
Then, moments later, Abdelkader scored on an innocent looking play. He swiped at a bouncing puck on a lone rush and had it float behind Fleury at 2:47.
Detroit fell into its patented defensive game at that point and ensured that it would be taking a big series lead to Pittsburgh.
Expect some bad blood to spill over when the teams get there. Malkin and Zetterberg fought in the final minute of Game 2 - the second straight game that ended with players going after one another.
Notes: The Red Wings are 10-1 at Joe Louis Arena during these playoffs ... Pascal Dupuis was inserted into Pittsburgh's lineup for the first time in nine games at the expense of Phillippe Boucher ... It was two years to the day since Crosby was named the Penguins captain ... Referee Bill McCreary is working his 14th Stanley Cup final and took part in his 38th championship game ... Linesman Jean Morin used a towel to remove an octopus from the ice late in the second period.
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