Crunch time looms for Penguins

Pittsburgh face the daunting task of fighting back against the in-form Red Wings.

    The Red Wings will be one win away from a series
    victory if they win in Pittsburgh [AFP] 

    The Pittsburgh Penguins need to rediscover their spark and form, and soon, against the Detroit Red Wings if they have any hope of making this NHL Stanley Cup finals matchup come close to its marquee billing.

    After two empty games in Motown, the Penguins returned to Pittsburgh on Tuesday in a 0-2 hole and with few answers how to score even once against the stifling Red Wings.

    "We need to find a way to hate that team,'' hard-hitting forward Gary Roberts said.

    "We haven't played any hockey against them the last few years. They play a game that they're not really in your face. They just play a puck-control game. They don't really make you that mad at them.

    "After (Monday) night, hopefully we've built a little of that anger up and we can use that to our advantage.''

    The Red Wings outscored the Penguins 7-0 in taking the first two games of the series on home ice.

    The task becomes considerably tougher now for Detroit because Pittsburgh is 8-0 at the Igloo in the playoffs and has won 16 straight there dating to February 24.

    After getting back home early Tuesday following a 3-0 loss at Joe Louis Arena, the Penguins held an optional practice.

    Big game

    No one was ready to call Wednesday's Game 3 a must-win, but the urgency wasn't lost on them, either.

    "This is a big one,'' captain Sidney Crosby said.

    "We're at home, and we definitely want to make sure we don't give them the opportunity to go up 3-0 here, and be one game away. We're pretty confident here. We just want to make sure that the desperation is there.''

    Detroit ended each of its previous three playoff series on the road, dispatching Nashville and Dallas in six games around a sweep of Colorado.

    The Red Wings also eliminated Calgary and San Jose from last year's playoffs on enemy ice before dropping Game 6 at Anaheim in the Western Conference finals.

    At 25-4-12, Detroit tied for the NHL's second best away mark in the regular season.

    "You see it in the NBA, no one wins on the road at all,'' Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

    "It's real important you look after home ice. Nothing is happening in a series until you've won on the road, after you've looked after business at home. So they're going to get regrouped and they're going to have their best effort. We've got to have our best effort in Game 3.''

    Role reversal

    Pittsburgh played the role Detroit is in now during its run through the Eastern Conference playoffs.

    The Penguins won the first two games at home against Ottawa, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia and then quashed any chance those clubs could stage a comeback by taking Game 3.

    Now they have to figure out how to avoid the same fate in front of their "white-out'' crowd that surely will be nervous on Wednesday.

    "We just have to press a little bit, for sure, and try to do things that you wouldn't ordinarily do,'' Roberts said.

    "We've got to be focused on what we need to do to generate more chances. That may be simplifying our game a little bit.

    "We've played well at home. We should feel good about what we've accomplished here. Our fans have been great to us all season and give us a lot of support. I think our energy will be high and we'll have our best game of the series.''

    SOURCE: Agencies


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