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Broken sticks, broken dreams and in Mellon Arena Saturday night, at least 17,000-plus broken hearts. Pittsburgh watched their quick 1-0 lead meet its match quickly before the end of the first, sending the game into a 1-1 tie for the second. The stalemate that followed secured some hope for the Penguins, but it was a loused clearing attempt in the third that send a Hudler backhander past Fleury for the game-winner.
The story of the night for both teams was the power play units. Both were deadly, but both equally met their match on the penalty kill. None acted more in suit than the Detroit Red Wings.
Late in the third, with a 5-on-4 power play in their favor, Pittsburgh hoped to at least even things up with a quick goal. Before the play could even get moving, another penalty was called on Detroit to put the power play to a massive 5-on-3 advantage for the Pens.
But it was Henrik Zetterberg and his insane penalty kill, shorthanded threats and clearing attempts that single-handedly kept Pittsburgh on lockdown. Most crucial of all was a play on Crosby that held 'The Kid' goalless on what would have most likely been the tying notch.
The biggest concern should lie in this - Detroit gave Pitt the chances. Their eight penalties compared to Pittsburgh's five gave plenty of room for a comeback on the Penguins' behalf. The team just couldn't muster up an attack around the swarming Wings defense.
Two days ago I mentioned Evgeni Malkin looked good. Puck-handling, passing, control, poise - it looked like he had the whole deal heading in the direction of...something. But Saturday night it looked more like Malkin needed a nap. Passes jumped over his stick, pucks remained directionless on fanned shots and his effort on ice practically left the Pens shorthanded without the penalty for whatever shift he was on. In the past, stories circulated of Hossa's inability to come through in the playoffs. Will the same lore surround Malkin in the future?
Speaking of Hossa; how ironic is it that he was the only one to score for Pitt tonight? The man who was in black and blue three months ago posted another playoff goal for the black and gold. If there were any hopes of Pitt holding onto him after this season, I fear his stock value has gone up, up and away this postseason.
Game 5 is do or die for Pittsburgh. To win three straight is not impossible but definitely a challenge beyond challenges. Worse than Pitt's lack of confident and production in Detroit earlier this series is a similar fear hanging over their heads now in Pittsburgh. As easily as this game could have fallen in Pittsburgh's favor it fell in Detroit's. One post shot later, two "just wide" shots and a few "if only" plays are all we have left heading into destiny.
But if you expected me to concede defeat now then I shouldn't be writing a Penguins blog.
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