The Penguins knew the Detroit Red Wings would block their path to the Stanley Cup - maybe just not this much.
Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien yesterday all but begged on-ice officials to enforce the obstruction rules, arguing that one of his team's greatest strengths is being taken away by the Red Wings' defensive tactics.
"It's something that we base our team with, speed," Therrien said. "And if we can . . . use our speed, we're going to get effect."
Detroit takes a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 in Pittsburgh tonight. A Red Wings victory would force the Penguins to win three straight games to claim the Cup, including two in Detroit where Pittsburgh was outscored 7-0 in the first two games.
Therrien complained about the lack of obstruction enforcement before the Penguins' 3-2 victory in Game 3 on Wednesday, and he pleaded again for more open ice, especially with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marian Hossa finding it difficult to get through the neutral zone compared to previous playoff rounds.
"If there's obstruction, there's obstruction," Therrien said. "When I see about 13, 14 [video] clips . . . that I could tell there should be a penalty regarding the [rule] book, I know how it is. I'm not expecting that they're going to call 14, [but] I'm expecting next game, they're going to call it."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock refused to get dragged into one of those "he said, he said" debates that often occur between opposing coaches during Stanley Cup off days.
"I don't listen to him," Babcock said.
* Luc Bourdon received his motorcycle license 2 weeks before his bike veered into a truck on a winding, two-lane road, instantly killing the Vancouver Canucks' rookie defenseman on Wednesday.
Investigators said yesterday that Bourdon's inexperience on a motorcycle might have played a role in his death.
"The impact took place in the opposite lane," Inspector Roch Fortin said during a news conference at the Shippagan, New Brunswick town hall, where flags were at half-staff. "The truck driver tried everything in his power to avoid the accident."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league will observe a moment of silence before tonight's Game 4 of the Cup finals. *