Pittsburg Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save off the Detroit Red Wings during first period Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, Saturday, May 24, 2008 in Detroit. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
DETROIT - It's one thing for Evgeni Malkin to be shut out on the scoreboard. But when the Pittsburgh Penguins star is also helping the other team score, than you know it's been a bad night.
Malkin's turnover right in front of his own net 2:16 into the third period led to Mikael Samuelsson's back-breaking, 2-0 goal Saturday night and capped what was a forgettable night for the Russian centre in Detroit's 4-0, Game 1 victory in the Stanley Cup final.
Penguins head coach Michel Therrien didn't name names when he said his team didn't compete but he must concerned with the recent play of Malkin. The two had a little pep talk before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final against Philadelphia and Malkin was a little better with a goal in the clinching victory.
But overall, the 21-year-old Hart Trophy finalist has two points in his last five playoff games. The Penguins have no chance against a quality team like the Red Wings if they can't get No. 71 going.
He had one shot on goal Saturday night, in the first period. Nothing in the last 40 minutes. Therrien tried to get him going by putting him on a line with fellow star Sidney Crosby for a few shifts but that, too, didn't amount to much.
Crosby, who had three shots on goal, was shut out as well Saturday, although he tried his best to fight through the checking.
"I felt really good," said the 20-year-old Penguins captain. "You have to really execute. That's the main thing. Tight games like this, I had a few chances, and they didn't go in. But that's the difference between executing and not executing, it's the difference in a hockey game."
Wings head coach Mike Babcock put his star forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk against Crosby's line with Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis and the matchup worked wonders.
"I probably had some chances early on, and they played tight," said Crosby. "I don't think they had a lot against us either. I think both lines did a pretty good job of battling and limiting chances."
Crosby and Malkin haven't faced a blue-line of Detroit's calibre in these playoffs. Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall form arguably the best top four in hockey and the Penguins found out Saturday night what the fuss was all about. Especially the five-time Norris Trophy winner Lidstrom.
"Unbelievable, game in and game out," Wings centre Kris Draper said of Lidstrom. "I've had the luxury of playing with Nick for 15 years. And he just continues to amaze with his positional play, with what he can do in both zones. He's so good with his stick.
"We're very lucky to be playing with not only the greatest defenceman of all time, but one of the greatest players that this game has seen."
Combined with a Wings forward group that's committed defensively, there's not much chance to test goalie Chris Osgood, who faced only 19 shots.
"They're a good hockey team," said Crosby. "They play tight. I don't think we came here expecting an easy series. For sure they played a tight checking game. But that's playoff hockey. You still have to find ways around that."
The Penguins were limited to seven total shots in the final two periods - four in the second period and only three in the final 20 minutes.
"I think defensively we've been real good all year," said Wings forward Dallas Drake, who played on a line with Samuelsson and Draper. "We're real fortunate in that our best players are our best defensive players as well. Zetterberg and Datsyuk, you can stick them out there any time of the game. And obviously they're going to play a lot against Crosby.
"And we've got Lidstrom and we've got a number of defencemen really solid in our own zone."