A shorthanded goal by Jordan Staal and goals from Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy gave the Pittsburgh Penguins what they needed - a convincing 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, tying the series 2-2.
''These last couple at home have been desperation from us," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said following the game. ''It's going to be like that all the way through here.''
Pittsburgh sniper Evgeni Malkin got the action going early. With forward Niklas Kronwall serving a two-minute tripping penalty handed down just 1:12 into the game, Penguins forward Jordan Staal had a chance to score, but Chris Osgood got a right pad on the shot and Kristopher Letang fired the rebound wide of the net. The puck ricocheted off the end boards and Malkin was waiting by the net to jam it past in at the 2:39 mark.
The early deficit didn't slow down the defending champions as the Red Wings came at Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury with a barrage of shots, but couldn't make good until Darren Helm capitalized on a Pittsburgh turnover to even the score at 1-1 with less than two minutes to play in the period. With the two sides skating 4-on-4, Helm intercepted a puck deep in the Pittsburgh zone and his wrist shot beat Fleury high on the short side with 1:41 remaining in the frame.
''I thought our guy with the most energy was Helm. Helm's line was the best line,'' said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock.
In the second stanza, Wings defecneman Brad Stuart scored his second goal of the series just 46 seconds into the period. Henrik Zetterberg passed the puck to Stuart at the right point and the blueliner's slap shot sailed past a screened Fleury to give the Wings their first lead of the game.
But that lead didn't last long, as Pittsburgh used a three-goal surge in a 5:37 span to change the momentum and grab a 4-2 advantage.
With Penguins blueliner Brooks Orpik serving a two minute penalty for tripping, Staal found the back of the net for a short-handed goal on a beautiful pass from Maxime Talbot, putting the Penguins back at even with the Wings.
''You fight and fight, try to get back into your system, get some momentum,'' said Penguins' Bill Guerin. ''Then you get a big goal like that, against that power play, and it's a big boost.''
Crosby lit the lamp two minutes after Staal's marker. On an odd-man rush with the captain, Malkin's initial pass was blocked by the stick of defenceman Jonathan Ericsson, but Malkin was able to slip the puck across, as Crosby lifted a shot over the right pad of a sliding Osgood.
''Once we made it 3-2, especially 4-2, they started talking a lot more and trying to initiate stuff after the whistle,'' said Orpik. ''That's not their game. It played right into our hands really. They want to waste their energy doing that ... I think it's to our advantage.''
Kennedy put the finishing touches on the game by taking a feed from Crosby and firing the puck into the net with 5:48 remaining in the second period. Neither team found the back of the goal in the third period.
Malkin and Crosby, leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, have scored the most goals by teammates in a single postseason since 1996. Crosby's goal on Thursday night put him at 15 while Malkin's marker was is 14th for a combined total of 29 goals.
''The TSN Turning Point of this entire series (and) the reason why we're going to have a Game 6 was the back-to-back penalty kills,'' NHL on TSN analyst Pierre McGuire said. ''(The Penguins) kill off Malkin's penalty, they kill off Orpik's penalty, they get a short-handed goal from Staal to tie the game, and then it's an offensive explosion from Crosby and Kennedy - a thing of beauty.''
Babcock echoed McGuire's thoughts, saying the momentum was shifted when the Penguins scored on the penalty kill.
''Obviously, we had the game going pretty good. The crowd was pretty quiet. We were playing all right. Then our power plays, like I said, hurt us for sure, and sucked the life out of us.''
Osgood said it was simply a case of Pittsburgh's star players making the most of Detroit's errors.
''They don't shoot as much as we do, but they can really pass it and they wait for their best chances,'' said Osgood. ''I'm going to make the highlight reel with that fourth one - not that I liked it.
''But what can I say? They got great goals from guys who are good players.''
The Wings got a boost with the news of returning forward Kris Draper, one of the top face-off men in all of hockey, but the veteran centre only had just over eight minutes of ice time. He missed the last five games, three with a suspected groin injury and the last two as a healthy scratch, and took the place of forward Justin Abdelkader in the lineup.
Unfortunately for Detroit, news on Pavel Datsyuk's injured foot wasn't good as the Russian forward sat out his seventh straight game. Datsyuk took the pre-game skate and was on the ice earlier in the day skating with the team's ''Black Aces'' unit which led to speculation that the Hart Trophy candidate would miss tonight's contest.
Datsyuk's absence was a significant blow to the Red Wings' ability to contain Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Crosby and Malkin, as the potential addition of Datsyuk would have given the Wings another body to shadow Malkin, who has been the Pens' most dangerous player in the series. He leads the playoffs in scoring with 35 points and has been in on seven of his team's 10 goals so far in this series.
''Detroit misses Datsyuk in so many situations,'' TSN's Ray Ferraro said. ''One of them is on the special teams, where Pittsburgh has totally dominated the Red Wings. Detroit has not found a way to keep the Penguins' power-play off the board and then tonight they end up giving the shorthanded goal to Jordan Staal. Datsyuk plays significant roles on both the power-play and penalty kill. Without Marian Hossa contributing anything - that's a goose-egg for Hossa, the Wings need Datsyuk.''
The Red Wings will look to regroup when the series shifts back to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for Game 5 on Saturday. Coach Babcock said he'll give his players a day off before Saturday's game.
''We need to get rested,'' said Babcock. ''We skated yesterday because that's what we wanted to do, we thought it was a good idea to flush. We're obviously not doing that tomorrow because it didn't work. And that's how scientific that decision is being made.... The next game's absolutely huge for us.''