- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2009

DETROIT | Experience was expected to be maybe the biggest advantage for the Detroit Red Wings in this Stanley Cup Finals, and it’s hard to argue with that after this beatdown in Motown.

The Red Wings welcomed back MVP candidate Pavel Datsyuk, secured an early lead and let the young Pittsburgh Penguins unravel en route to a 5-0 thrashing Saturday night in Game 5 at sold-out Joe Louis Arena. Datsyuk had two assists, the Detroit power play roared to life, and the Penguins were left with battered egos facing elimination when this series shifts back to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

“We weren’t happy with that six or seven minutes in the second period [Thursday night in Game 4], and I thought we came out with a lot of determination,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We killed off that first power play, and then we just kept going.”

Pittsburgh carried the play in the opening minutes, but the Penguins mustered little on a power-play opportunity and the momentum shifted. Dan Cleary put the Red Wings in front after taking a pass from Datsyuk and putting a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury that deflected off defenseman Brooks Orpik’s stick at 12:32 of the opening period.

Chris Kunitz was charged with goaltender interference with 20.7 seconds left in the opening period, and while the Penguins killed off the power play, the second period became a parade to the penalty box and the Red Wings made them pay.

Seconds after the Kunitz penalty expired, Valtteri Filppula backhanded in a shot after Chris Osgood made a long outlet pass to catch Pittsburgh on a line change at 1:44. Niklas Kronwall had the first power-play goal at 6:11 of the second period - 18 seconds after Sergei Gonchar was whistled for slashing.

Evgeni Malkin went to the box for elbowing 37 seconds later, and Brian Rafalski took a diagonal pass from Datsyuk and put a shot through a screen to make it 4-0. Kunitz tried to pick a fight with Darren Helm at 13:50, and 1:50 later Henrik Zetterberg finished a slap-pass from Jiri Hudler for a 5-0 advantage.

Four goals in less than 14 minutes and five on 21 shots meant an early exit for Fleury, who was replaced by Mathieu Garon. The chippy play didn’t end at that point.

Sidney Crosby was in the middle of a post-whistle scrum with Zetterberg and shortly after the next faceoff was sent to the box for a two-handed chop at Zetterberg’s leg away from the play. Twenty seconds later, Max Talbot took a swing at Datsyuk’s feet - the guy who missed seven games with a foot injury - and the Red Wings had a lengthy five-on-three.

“I thought they got frustrated once we got ahead 3-0, 4-0,” Lidstrom said. “We kept our cool and got some more power plays. It never got out of hand for us.”

Once Crosby returned to the ice, he was serenaded with boisterous chants of “Crosby Sucks.” When the period came to a close the damage assessment was not pretty.

Detroit netted four goals, outshot Pittsburgh 15-6 and yielded nary a decent scoring chance in those 20 minutes, but by the middle of the period the Penguins appeared less interested in scoring chances and more intent on exacting a pound of flesh for their frustrations.

“You’re going to have emotions in a situation where you’re not getting a result and the other team fills the net on you,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.”I think our guys were frustrated and then trying to play physical and started to get off the page by trying to run around and be physical.

“Emotions come to the surface in hockey, and they force us into a situation where we were frustrated and they had a big lead with the crowd going at home. We tried to refocus for sure, but I wasn’t surprised how we reacted and tried to play physical. That’s not the first time that’s happened in hockey.”

Before this contest, much of the focus was on Detroit’s subpar special teams. The Red Wings had scored only one power-play goal in the series, while the Penguins were 4-for-10 with the man advantage.

The Red Wings will try to secure the Cup for the fifth time in 12 seasons in Game 6, and it would mean celebrating at Mellon Arena for the second straight year. Pittsburgh must regroup and try to be the first team to rally from down 3-2 in the final and win Game 7 on the road since Montreal did so in 1971 against Chicago.

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