The Pittsburgh Penguins' fresh legs and fast feet changed the Stanley Cup finals in a flash, and now a series that looked to be over is only getting started.
Jordan Staal's shorthanded goal during back-to-back Detroit power plays started Pittsburgh's comeback, and the Penguins scored three goals in less than 6 minutes of the second period last night to win, 4-2, and tie the series at 2.
Evgeni Malkin, enjoying the best postseason scoring run since Wayne Gretzky's in 1993, and Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist each to help rally the Penguins from a 2-1 deficit a year to the day Detroit raised the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh by winning Game 6.
Tyler Kennedy also scored, and Marc-Andre Fleury, with his second successive excellent game, made 37 saves. All the Penguins' goal scorers are 22 or younger - Sid isn't their only kid - and it may have made a big difference as the older Red Wings played their fourth game in 6 nights.
"It seemed like all their guys were really slumped over tired and looked like they were frustrated, really," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "When you see that you just kind of feed off of it."
Game 5 is tomorrow night in Detroit, with Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night after the series' first 2-day break.
"It's a race to four [wins] now," Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis said.
The Red Wings certainly lost all the races in Game 4, done in by a bad second period and dreadful special teams. Pittsburgh has converted on four of nine power plays, and this game swung when the Penguins scored - and the Red Wings didn't - during 3:59 of continuous Detroit power-play time. Detroit was 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
With Detroit up 2-1 following goals by Darren Helm and Brad Stuart less than 3 minutes apart to end the first and start the second, Staal - who had only two goals in 20 playoff games - got loose after Max Talbot's up-ice pass. The 6-4 Staal used his lengthy stride to thread defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski and beat Chris Osgood at 8:35 of the second.
"Max made a great play. I saw Lidstrom and Rafalski both kind of flat-footed," Staal said. "I kind of just buried my head, went for it and kind of snuck it in."
Staal's goal instantly changed a major opportunity by Detroit to seize control not only of the game but the series into a tie game, and the 17,132 jammed into a suddenly rocking Mellon Arena sensed how big the play might be.
"That was a big momentum changer for us," Talbot said. "The building was so loud, it gave us a lot of emotion."
On the Detroit bench, a sour-faced Mike Babcock had the look of a coach wondering if the compressed schedule is favoring the younger Penguins.
"We were playing all right, but the power play hurt us for sure," Babcock said. "It sucked the life out of us."
The Red Wings had a letdown a few minutes before the start when Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk, out for six games with an injured foot, skated in the pregame warmups but decided he couldn't play.
* The Colorado Avalanche hired 40-year-old Joe Sacco of the AHL as their coach, a day after firing Tony Granato and shaking up their front office.
* According to espn.com, the Flyers and Washington Capitals are the two candidates to play the Boston Bruins in the New Year's Day outdoor game at Fenway Park.
* Boston forward David Krejci had successful hip surgery and will be out 4 to 6 months. *