PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins needed some answers on offense, and Sidney Crosby provided them.
By doing so, these Stanley Cup Finals might last longer than most people expected after the Detroit Red Wings dominated the first two games.
Crosby had a pair of goals, and the Penguins proved - for one night at least -they can play with the veteran Red Wings in a 3-2 victory in Game 3 of the finals last night.
Detroit leads the series 2-1, but the Penguins now own a 9-0 record in these playoffs at Mellon Arena and have won 17 straight at home including the regular season. Game 4 is here Saturday night.
“I thought [Crosby] played well the first two games but the results were not there,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “Good players when the challenge is there - this is where they like to play those type of games.”
For most of the opening period, this game resembled the first two of the series, with the Red Wings suffocating the Penguins and dominating in shots. Late in the period the Penguins began to sustain some pressure in the offensive zone, and Crosby ended a nearly eight-period scoring drought at 17:25.
Crosby collected the puck after a turnover by Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart and fed a cutting Marian Hossa. His shot was rebuffed, but Crosby chipped home the loose puck for his first of the night.
“It was just ‘Finally,’ ” Crosby said. “It wasn’t that the chances weren’t there, but one finally went in for us.”
After the Red Wings had a 9-1 shot advantage, the Penguins registered the final five of the period - all in the final five minutes.
Crosby made it a 2-0 lead early in the second period on the power play. Thirty-two seconds after Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall went to the box for hooking, the puck squirted to Crosby to the left of Detroit goalie Chris Osgood, and he put it in for his sixth of the postseason.
The play started with Sergei Gonchar’s shot from the right point, and both Ryan Malone and Hossa took swings at the puck before it came to Crosby.
Johan Franzen cut the lead in half at 14:48 with Detroit’s first power-play goal of the series.
Pittsburgh defenseman Hal Gill took back-to-back cross-checking penalties while battling with Tomas Holmstrom in front of the net, and the Red Wings capitalized on the second one.
Franzen collected a pass from Nicklas Lidstrom at the offensive blue line and skated through Pittsburgh’s Adam Hall and Rob Scuderi. The defenseman then lifted a shot to the short side to beat goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for his league-leading 13th goal of the playoffs.
The Penguins were clearly about to find more room to operate, especially at even strength. Through the first two games of this series, the Penguins generated only 13 shots with the teams at 5-on-5.
Pittsburgh had 15 of them last night in the first 40 minutes.
“The attention was there. The work ethic was there in Game 2, but the structure was not,” Therrien said. “We had to make sure we stayed focus about playing the right way.”
Crosby nearly completed the hat trick 3:40 into the final period. His shot from the left wall squeezed through Osgood, but the goalie was able to spin around and cover it before it crossed the goal line.
Hall put the Penguins back in front by two with 12:42 remaining. His first attempt hit the side of the net, but after Osgood got caught out of position, Hall put a shot off the Detroit goalie from behind the cage.
Mikael Samuelsson notched his fifth of the playoffs of third of this series with 6:23 remaining to make it a one-goal game again.
“We have a lot of guys who keep an even keel,” Hall said. “Even if the media or the fans or anybody was second-guessing what we were doing, we knew if we stick to what we know we can be successful.”
Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin attended the game after he collected the Art Ross and Maurice Richard trophies earlier in the day. Ovechkin sat in commissioner Gary Bettman’s luxury box.