In a welcome change of pace from the seemingly endless saga of Will He Or Won't He Play Tonight, Pavel Datsyuk is finally making news for something other than his bum foot. The Red Wings center, who hadn't played since Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, had two assists in Detroit's commanding 5-0 win over the Penguins in Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena (RECAP | BOX) and are now within one win of hoisting the Stanley Cup for the 12th time.
For all the talk about how close this series has been -- both teams exchanging home wins through four games -- the addition of a 5-foot-9, 197-pound forward tilted the scale in the Red Wings' favor. Reunited with his old linemate Henrik Zetterberg, with whom he had immense success last season, Datsyuk made his first mark in the series 13 minutes into the game. Hauling the puck into the offensive zone, he crossed one to Dan Cleary, who shot it through Penguins defenseman BrooksOrpik's legs and beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for the first goal of the game.
"If you watched him all season, you know how much he means to our club," Cleary said. "To be able to come into a Game 5 of the finals and not miss a beat, he's a great player. He's an MVP candidate. What can you say?"
He certainly silenced the Penguins, who began to unravel as the game got out of hand. They took five penalties in the second period, opening the door for the Wings' much improved power play. After going 1-for-9 in the first four games, Detroit made a frustrated Pittsburgh team pay for their misbehavior in the second period, capitalizing on three of their five opportunities with the man advantage, although it was really four. With the seconds on ChrisKunitz's first-period penalty winding down, the Penguins were slow on the change, allowing Detroit goalie Chris Osgood to spy Marian Hossa lurking on the far blue line. Hossa took the puck and found Valtteri Filppula, who made the game 2-0.
Then came a succession of Pittsburgh penalties -- three in less than 10 minutes -- and with each one, Detroit pulled further and further ahead. "We let it get out of control," Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "You don't give yourself much of a chance to win the Stanley Cup by taking too many penalties.... [And] the penalties were silly, and that's something we can't have in Game 6."
As much as their power play came through, it was Detroit's first-period penalty kill that started it all. With Niklas Kronwall in the box in a scoreless game, the Red Wings knew they'd have to bear down in the area they have struggled with most. More aggressive in the neutral zone and clearing the puck three times, Detroit didn't allow the Penguins to set up for 52 seconds and didn't allow a single shot. "That was a huge difference, a huge play," Cleary said. "Early, they had a power play, and [if] they score there... We've struggled with penalty kills, but we found a way to constantly get it down 200 [feet]. Those are momentum-shifting kills."
The Penguins will need to find a way to win in The Joe if they expect to lift that Cup for the first time since 1992, but they won't if they allow themselves to unravel like they did Saturday. As people talked about the fatigued Red Wings after Game 4, we were all reminded that the sword cuts both ways. Unlike talent, maturity is something learned, and the lack of discipline the Penguins displayed, picking up three game misconducts in the last five minutes, was reminiscent of the Chicago Blackhawks' meltdown against the Red Wings in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals: two young teams that couldn't quite keep their emotions in check.
"It's tough," said forward Max Talbot, who was called on a slash to Datsyuk's ankle at the end of the second period. "We should have done a better job of keeping our composure."