PITTSBURGH - If the Pittsburgh Penguins need inspiration and motivation - and, boy, do they ever, down two games to none to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals - perhaps they can get it from Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
The world-class scoring talent of the Penguins not only was stifled but was also shut out in two games in Detroit. After his team's 3-0 loss in Game 2 on Monday night, coach Michel Therrien wore a look that is part exasperation and part disbelief.
Heading into Game 3 tonight, in an arena where they haven't lost in more than three months, maybe Therrien and the Penguins should consider this: recent history suggests the finals not only aren't over, but may only be starting.
In 2003, Babcock's Anaheim Mighty Ducks were being written off after New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur shut them out by identical 3-0 scores.
New Jersey's trip to Southern California was seen as a mere formality, with the Devils expected to return home with the Stanley Cup firmly in tow a few days later.
Instead, the Ducks won two overtime games in the Pond, and the series ended up lasting seven games. The Devils finally won the Cup, but only by winning all four games in the Meadowlands.
So are the Penguins already finished? Have they been upstaged and unraveled by an older, more experienced and more Cup-worthy team? Maybe not yet.
"We have a lot of guys who are capable of scoring and making things happen," Sidney Crosby said yesterday, not even 12 hours after the Penguins returned home from their two worst games of the playoffs.
"And our confidence is fine. We all believe in each other," Crosby said.
Babcock recalls that going home was just what his Ducks needed in 2003. He hopes the same scenario doesn't work against his team five years later.
"Their guys are going to say, 'OK, we're a good team at home. We're 8-0 at home. Nothing's happening in this series as long as we hold serve, that kind of thing,' '' Babcock said.
The Washington Capitals re-signed right wing Matt Bradley to a three-year, $3 million contract.