PITTSBURGH - The Detroit Red Wings have been through this before.
They jump to big leads over teams that seem grossly overmatched, then find ways to let them back in the playoffs.
The Nashville Predators caught up to Detroit in the first round, and the Dallas Stars put a scare into the Presidents' Trophy winners after losing the first three games of the Western Conference finals.
Only Colorado proved easy pickings, swept by the Red Wings in the second round.
Now, the Pittsburgh Penguins are a win from squaring the Stanley Cup Finals after being shut out in the first two games. Are the Red Wings vulnerable, or do they have the Eastern Conference champions right where they want them?
"We didn't come into the series thinking we were going to win four straight," goalie Chris Osgood said. "We were hoping to, but to say we expected it to be a hard series would be right on."
The Red Wings were again dominant at times in their 3-2 road loss to the Penguins on Wednesday, and were coming on strong before running out of time. Moreover, they still lead the best-of-seven series, two games to one.
"It's not over after you're up 2-0 or 2-1," defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said yesterday, the first of two straight off days. "You have to have that mentality that you have to stick with it for four wins. It's not going to be easy. They're a very good team over there, and we knew that, too, coming in."
If the Red Wings can figure out a way to beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh tomorrow night - something no team has done in nine playoff games and 17 overall dating from Feb. 24 - they will head home with a chance to win the Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena.
Neither the Penguins nor the Red Wings practiced yesterday, with both clubs happy to escape the hockey spotlight for a day.
For the first time since the playoffs began, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby did not meet with reporters. On Wednesday, Sid the Kid scored in each of the first two periods and put a few dents in the Red Wings' perceived invincibility.
"Any time you have success like that, it's going to give everybody a huge boost mentally," Adam Hall, whose third-period goal was the winner, said of the victory. "It just makes everything seem worth it, all the effort you put into it.
"We feel like we put the same effort into the first two games, but sometimes it's not just a matter of working hard - you've got to work smart as well.
"It was just great for everybody looking around the room after the game to see everybody in great spirits."
Even Penguins coach Michel Therrien enjoyed a laugh yesterday. He was the last person to take the podium on a quiet day at the rink after causing a delay while tending to a family issue.
"Sorry, I got caught up," he said upon his arrival. "I had to go back to school and pick up my daughter."
Young Canuck killed. Luc Bourdon, 21, a promising rookie defenseman with the Vancouver Canucks, was killed yesterday when his motorcycle struck a tractor-trailer near his hometown of Shippagan, New Brunswick.
His death was confirmed by his sister Eve Bourdon, and his stepmother, Maryse Godin. Both declined to comment further.
Police wouldn't confirm the identity of the victim but said a motorcyclist was killed in the early afternoon on a road between Shippagan and Lemeque.
"Luc was an extremely talented player with a bright future," Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said in a statement. "He brought great passion to the game and was a valued team member on and off the ice."
Bourdon's agent, Kent Hughes, called his client a winner and a competitor.
"There was no quit in him," said Hughes, who knew Bourdon since the player was 15. "He persevered through a lot. He was a great guy and a great teammate."
Winning in ratings. The Penguins' first victory over the Red Wings, shown on NBC, drew the best overnight rating for a third game of the Stanley Cup Finals in six years.