Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Post Game 3


One bad officiating game begets another, I guess.

For 21 seconds in the first period, the Penguins played with six men on the ice. Somehow, no on-ice official noticed, or at least didn't call the infraction.

I'd be remiss if I didn't rail against the officiating after having done it below, but that about sums up what the series has been like, and the refereeing is becoming a theme. One would think the league doesn't want the officials to become a story, but they have, and again in Game 3, a number of violations went unpunished by both teams.

Honestly, this is becoming a joke, and it's happening on the NHL's marquee stage. As I commented below, referees tend to say they don't want to affect the outcome of the game by calling penalties, but they fail to realize they're affecting the outcome of the game by not calling penalties. The rule book is there for a reason, and it's so rules aren't broken. NFL officials have no hesitation to call holding in the final two minutes of the Super Bowl, baseball umpires call strikes in the ninth inning of the World Series. But for some reason, NHL and NBA referees take a far more liberal approach to enforcing the rules.

The product that's out there is not what hockey has been like this season. If someone in either sweater commits a foul, call it. You can take "letting them play" only so far. Showcase the talented players that are on the ice, don't let them fall back into the abyss of holding and interference that bogs them down. Don't go overboard with the calls, but I'd think that's better than going overboard with the non-calls.

Off the soapbox. This incessant discussion about this subject is surely tiring to read, but it's not something that should be ignored either.

Anyway, onto the game.

In a way, this was the typical Pittsburgh game. Dominant early, lackluster for the latter half of the first period and most of the second, dominant again in the third.

The Penguins controlled play early, and actually scored a goal (sometimes they're dominant early without scoring a goal) but Detroit answered quickly, got a power play and went ahead 2-1. After Pittsburgh's goal, the Red Wings dictated play in the first period.

Detroit controlled the action in the second period too, out-shooting Pittsburgh 14-4 in the frame. But Marc-Andre Fleury - who has faced harsh criticism, which I feel is undeserved - stood tall and kept the Wings off the scoreboard.

The second period is typically Pittsburgh's worst and that was the case Tuesday. The third period is probably their strongest, and the Penguins had one of the league's best records when trailing after two periods.

They weren't trailing going into the third but still came out to play. Pittsburgh limited Detroit to three shots in the final period. Jonathan Ericsson took an interference penalty, and Sergei Gonchar powered a slapper past Chris Osgood for what proved to be the game-winning goal.

What followed the goal was a long stretch of end-to-end action, then the Penguins did a superb job hemming the Red Wings in their own end for several minutes, rarely allowing any threat to Fleury's goal. Then Max Talbot iced the cake with his second goal of the game into an empty net with 56.4 seconds remaining, and the Penguins earned their first win of the series.

The lesson to be learned through three games seems to be, let your opponent get more shots. Pittsburgh out-shot Detroit in the first two games (32-30 and 32-26) and the Red Wings tallied a higher total in Game 3, 29-21.

The Penguins got a sorely needed win, and having been confident even after dropping the first two games, should be more so knowing that yes, they can skate with the Red Wings and beat them. Whether they're back in the series will be determined Thursday. A win tonight means little if the Penguins lose Game 4.

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