Stanley Cup is half-empty for Penguins

| Monday, June 1, 2009

DETROIT — As Penguins captain Sidney Crosby sat Sunday night in his dressing-room stall, without a point through two losing games of a Stanley Cup Final, someone suggested that his team would not only climb out of another 2-0 series hole but rebound to win the Cup.

"I like it," he said.

He's not the only one.

Whether it was collective blind faith or steel-willed belief, Penguins players echoed veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar's statement following a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2 at Joe Louis Arena.

"We have a good chance," Gonchar said of winning this best-of-seven series. "There are not a lot of teams that can come here and outshoot the Detroit Red Wings (in consecutive games). We've had a lot of chances."

But the Penguins aren't scoring — and the only one who did, center Evgeni Malkin, wasn't talking about how his club might be able to beat red-hot Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood, who made 31 saves for a second consecutive game.

Actually, Malkin refused to speak after a game that for him ended with 19 seconds remaining because of a seemingly frustration-fueled fight with Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg.

So, there is no way to know if Malkin was sending a message to the Red Wings in advance of Game 3 at Mellon Arena on Tuesday.

Only one team in NHL history — the 1971 Montreal Canadiens — has won a best-of-seven Final after losing two opening games on the road.

Home will certainly seem comforting to the Penguins.

Unlike last year, when they failed to score in Games 1 and 2 at Detroit, they've gone shift-for-shift with the Red Wings in this Final.

However, suspect non-calls, off-the-mark bounces and weird goals went against them.

Start backward with the fourth baffling goal surrendered by Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins trailed, 2-1, early in the third period when Red Wings winger Justin Abdelkader's second series goal somehow eluded Fleury. After cutting across the ice in the offensive zone against Penguins defensemen Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi, Abdelkader whacked a bouncing puck high past Fleury's glove hand.

"In the playoffs, it's up to the goalie to play well and make those key saves for your team," Fleury said. "I have to do that more in the next (game)."

Fleury has allowed six goals on 56 shots for a .892 save percentage that he knows won't cut it against the high-powered Red Wings, even if few of Detroit's offensive stars have bested him in the Final.

Crosby, the Penguins' top star and captain, has yet to make his mark.

Accused yesterday morning by Detroit coach Mike Babcock of being a headhunter for a Game 1 check on Zetterberg, Crosby was determined to deliver in Game 2.

To be fair, he could have had his 15th playoff goal and an assist, but he hit the post shortly before Abdelkader's goal, as did Penguins right wing Bill Guerin not long after Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula's winning goal at 10:29 of the second period.

That goal enraged the Penguins, who feel former teammate and Red Wings winger Marian Hossa should have been penalized for hooking winger Pascal Dupuis.

As Dupuis skated with the puck high in the defensive zone, Hossa lifted his stick into Dupuis' gloves to force a turnover. Dupuis said his stick was broken by Hossa, and he looked to officials for a call.

By then, Detroit winger Tomas Holmstrom had directed a shot on Fleury, whose crease was crowded by Red Wings and Penguins. Filppula found the rebound and directed the puck into the net to give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead.

"He hooks me in the hands and breaks my stick, and there was no explanation (from on-ice officials) on that," Dupuis said. "I thought maybe there should have been a call on that play. It's frustrating."

Equally frustrating was Detroit pulling even at 4:21 of the second period on defenseman Jonathan Ericsson's third playoff goal — a point-shot that bested Fleury, who was cleanly screened by Red Wings center Darren Helm.

That goal — like Red Wings winger Johan Franzen's winner late in the second period of Game 1 on Saturday — was set up by a Penguins faceoff loss following an icing on an extended shift.

It was one of those weekends for the Penguins, but ...

"I think everybody in this room believes we have a great, great chance of winning this series," winger Chris Kunitz said. "I think we've played well. Obviously, they've played better. They've got the two wins. But we still believe we have a great, great chance."

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