Commentary

Pens' energy rattles Wings in Game 4

Updated: June 5, 2009, 2:25 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- For five minutes and 37 seconds, the guys in the white and red jerseys didn't look like Stanley Cup champions.

They looked absolutely frazzled as the Pittsburgh Penguins scored three majestic goals. Save the tape. You don't often rattle the Detroit Red Wings.

"They were coming after us hard, and we didn't show very much poise," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said after Thursday night's 4-2 loss to the Penguins. "We didn't respond very well."

If you had given the Red Wings the option one week ago of a best-of-three series for the NHL championship with two games at home, they surely would have taken it. But the defending champs headed back home Thursday night knowing 2008 is a distant memory. No 3-1 lead, no cushion, no inevitable ending. This baby is very much in the air, and the Wings are going to have to work extra hard for it.

"They've got a good team, so do we," said Red Wings netminder Chris Osgood, who stopped 27 of 31 shots. "That's what everyone said coming into the series. To me, that's what you've seen. …

"We've played one good game, and that was [Game] 3. So for us, 2-2, we'd like to be 3-1, but we're right where we probably should be the way the games have went. It's a best-of-three now and we have to focus on playing our best."

Playing their best doesn't include turning the puck over like no one's business. The official NHL game summary had the Wings with six turnovers. Sorry, with all due respect to whoever tracked those Thursday night, there's absolutely no way the Wings had only six giveaways. Unless they meant six per shift. Believe us, the Wings turned the puck over again and again Thursday night, and it cost them the game.

"We really did," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. "We turned the puck over a lot."

The scary part for Detroit is that the biggest culprits were the six guys playing defense, otherwise known as the deepest and most talented blue-line corps in the NHL. They were giving pucks away as if they had forgotten what color their uniforms were.

"We have to cut down on turnovers," said Lidstrom, who was hit hard in the first period by Penguins winger Matt Cooke. "When we can get the puck in their zone and work on their D, we're getting chances. We have to get a little better playing with the puck and cut down on turnovers in the neutral zone."

It's a tired subject, but are the Red Wings tired? It was the fourth game in six nights for a Wings team that was licking its wounds entering the Cup finals. Lidstrom, speaking only for himself, said he was tired after Game 2 after the back-to-back start but felt fine in the past two games.

If Lidstrom wasn't tired, Henrik Zetterberg certainly looked it. He played 24:19 in Game 3 chasing Sidney Crosby around the ice, and he didn't look like himself Thursday night.

"I didn't think Z and the Mule [Johan Franzen] had as much jump tonight," said Babcock, who played Zetterberg 20:58 in Game 4.

The Wings coach didn't chase the Zetterberg-Crosby matchup in this game, and it was probably because he knew Zetterberg didn't have it in the tank.

Suddenly, getting reigning Selke Trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk back never sounded so good for the Wings. There was hope in the Detroit camp that the Hart Trophy nominee might be ready to return, but after taking the warm-up, he missed his seventh game.

"I don't think we really keep our minds on it, thinking Pav's going to come back like a knight in shining armor and save us," Osgood said. "We have to do it ourselves. We got to have guys step up, everybody step up, and play like we can."

Recent history suggests the Wings will do just that. They were pushed by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round, but responded with big wins in Games 5 and 7 to close the series out. They are 10-1 at Joe Louis Arena this spring, so a pivotal Game 5 doesn't exactly faze this group.

"We've been 2-2 over the years quite a bit, whether it be with Calgary, Nashville, whether it be in the Anaheim series," Babcock said. "Everyone talks about momentum, but I'm a big believer that momentum is, you know, as good as the next day's start kind of thing. Just get out there and get playing again and go from there. … And obviously, just like tonight's game was huge, the next game's absolutely huge for us."

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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