DETROIT - It's no surprise the Detroit Red Wings have a Swede to thank for a prime-time performance, but Mikael Samuelsson?
The demoted forward busted out of a slump with two goals, and Chris Osgood stifled the Pittsburgh Penguins' young and talented stable of forwards with 19 saves to lift the Red Wings to a 4-0 victory in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals last night.
Samuelsson doubled his playoff goal total with two in the biggest game of his five-season NHL career. He had been dropped to Detroit's third line earlier in the playoffs and had posted only two assists since his two-goal outburst on May 1.
Detroit overpowered goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with a 36-shot barrage. Osgood has two postseason shutouts this season and 12 in his playoff career.
Game 2 is tomorrow night in Detroit.
The Red Wings are led by a collection of seven Swedes, most notably captain Nicklas Lidstrom on defense and key forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.
With Samuelsson finding his scoring touch, it didn't matter that Franzen - tied with Zetterberg for the NHL lead with 12 postseason goals - missed his sixth straight game due to recurring headaches. He seems close to returning, and that could pose big problems for the Penguins, who fell to 12-3 in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh raced out to 3-0 leads in each of the first three rounds - all started in the Steel City - and didn't drop more than one game to any opponent. Detroit, however, kept Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in check along with the rest of Pittsburgh's 20-somethings and under.
In a series billed as a matchup between Penguins' youth and Red Wings' experience, Detroit claimed the first strike. The Presidents' Trophy-winning Red Wings are 13-4 in the playoffs and three wins away from their third Stanley Cup title in 11 seasons.
Samuelsson needed no help as both of his goals were unassisted. He bailed out fellow Swede Tomas Holmstrom, who was whistled for interference on Fleury that negated a goal by Lidstrom that would have been the game's first score.
Samuelsson broke the tie in the second period, picking off an errant pass on the far side of center ice and taking it all the way with 6 minutes, 59 seconds left in the first.
It was Samuelsson's first goal in seven games, dating to the series-clinching Game 4 win over Colorado.
He netted another 2:16 into the third when Pittsburgh's Rob Scuderi and Evgeni Malkin took turns fumbling the puck. Samuelsson got it and was alone at the top of the crease for the goal.
Everybody against everybody. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings won't have to wait until the Stanley Cup Finals to play next season.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said every team in the league will play all the others at least once next season. The announcement came yesterday before Game 1 of the finals between Pittsburgh and Detroit, two teams that did not meet this regular season.
Bettman also used his annual pre-Cup news conference to say the size of goaltenders' equipment will be analyzed in the off-season.
"All goaltenders should be on equal footing," he said, noting scoring is down, goalies are bigger both physically and with the equipment they wear, and he wants more room for skaters to shoot on net.