DETROIT - The Red Wings found a perfect way to move halfway to a repeat - beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on back-to-back nights.
So much for Detroit being old, beaten down and needing a break. The Red Wings topped the Penguins, 3-1, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals last night and are two wins from retaining the NHL crown.
Just as they did a year ago in winning the title for the 11th time and fourth in 11 seasons, the Red Wings took the first two games from the Penguins at home. This year posed a new challenge, sweeping a pair on consecutive nights just 3 days after finishing the Western Conference finals.
"It's hurt us. Don't kid yourself," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we were exhausted out there. It's amazing what will does for you.
"We found a way to win two games, but we haven't been as good as we're capable of being."
Rookie defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who watched that series clincher over Chicago Wednesday night in the locker room hours after having his appendix removed, scored the tying goal for Detroit in the second period, and Valtteri Filppula added the go-ahead tally 6 minutes, 8 seconds later. Justin Abdelkader then scored his second goal of the series in the third, and the Red Wings headed for Pittsburgh with a commanding lead.
"We've got good team doctors here," Ericsson said. "It doesn't bother me at all now."
Game 3 is tomorow night, and the odds favor Detroit's quest to become the NHL's first repeat champion since they did it in 1997 and '98. Teams that win Games 1 and 2 at home have captured the Cup 31 of 32 times.
Frustration boiled over for Pittsburgh with 18.2 seconds left, when Max Talbot stuck his stick in Detroit goalie Chris Osgood's midsection after he made his 31st save. That led to a fight between Evgeni Malkin and Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg that left both players' jerseys torn on the ice.
The Penguins dropped the opener by the same 3-1 margin on Saturday night. In Game 2, Malkin had a strong first period and staked Pittsburgh to an early, 1-0 lead. It just wasn't enough as Detroit, especially Zetterberg, bottled up Sidney Crosby and kept him pointless for the second straight game.
Osgood outplayed Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury again in earning his 73rd NHL playoff victory, eighth on the career list.
The nicked-up Red Wings bent but didn't break last night. And they did it again without injured forwards Pavel Datsyuk, their leading scorer in the regular season, and four-time Stanley Cup winner Kris Draper.