Pens bring desperation home
The Penguins find themselves in an unfamiliar position after storming in the Stanley Cup final with a 12-2 playoff record.
They are where their previous three playoff opponents were - needing a win at home to turn momentum and avoid a likely insurmountable 3-0 series deficit.
Game 3 at Mellon Arena tonight is virtually a must-win for the Penguins, who had not trailed in the playoffs before falling behind the Detroit Red Wings, 2-0, in this best-of-seven Cup final.
"We have to win. We know that," left wing Jarkko Ruutu said. "It's gonna change the series around (if) we're gonna win this game. It's no secret that it's real tough to come back from (3-0). That's why we're prepared to win the next one."
Only two NHL teams have dug themselves out of a 3-0 series deficit.
Then again, few odds seem to favor the Penguins. They are the 32nd team to drop Games 1 and 2 of the Cup final on the road, and 30 of those clubs lost the championship series.
Few of those clubs played as well at home as the Penguins, though. They ride a 16-game win streak, including eight consecutive in the playoffs, into Mellon Arena.
"We play well at home," Ruutu said. "This is the first time we got in a situation where we started on the road and lost two games. We haven't lost any games at home yet, so we're confident about that."
Home-ice advantage was truly that for the Penguins against Ottawa, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia. They started each of those series with two wins at home to put pressure on their opponents in Game 3.
The Penguins won each of those Game 3s to grab vice-like grips on the series. Now they want to avoid that vice themselves, and they are clearly in desperation mode.
"Yeah, this is a big one," center Sidney Crosby said. "We're at home, and we definitely want to make sure we don't give them the opportunity to go up, 3-0, here, and be one game away (from winning the Cup). So we want to make sure that we're ready. And, you know, we're at home. We've played well. So I think we're pretty confident here. Just want to make sure that the desperation is there."
The Penguins need to score a goal before they can worry about winning a game. Their inability to put even one puck past Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood is equally discouraging and deflating.
Coach Michel Therrien is disappointed the Red Wings are getting away with what he considers obstruction - though he tempered his frustration Tuesday after accusing Detroit of cheating following a Game 2 loss Monday.
"We fell behind early in (Game 2), and this is a team that it's tough to generate offense with the obstruction that they're doing," Therrien said. "But you know what, they're doing it the right way. It's like there's a dotted line. Sometimes they'll cross it a little bit. And that goes with experience. It's tough to generate offense. And you need to score dirty goals. The tic-tac-toe play, sometimes it's going to happen. But most of the time you're going to put the puck at the net, and you're going to crash the net."
The Red Wings have outscored the Penguins, 7-0, and out-shot them, 70-41 - statistical advantages befitting a team that led the NHL in regular-season points.
Like the Penguins, Detroit entered the Cup final having never trailed in a series. They raced to 3-0 leads against Dallas and Colorado after allowing Nashville to erase a 2-0 lead in the opening round.
The Red Wings won that series in six games. But they have shown a penchant for losing focus after seemingly taking command of a series. Dallas also extended Detroit to six games.
Desperate teams have proved troublesome to the Red Wings, and their coach, Mike Babcock can relate to that feeling.
His Anaheim club was shut out by the New Jersey Devils in the first two games of the 2003 Stanley Cup final. Those games were in New Jersey. The Ducks held serve at home and extended that series to a seventh game.
"I think it's a different scenario," Babcock said of this Cup final. "The bottom line is just like their coach and their guys are gonna try to do is say, 'Ok we're a good team at home. We're 8-0 at home. Nothing is going to happen as long as we hold turf.' That's exactly what happened. Suddenly the series was best of three."