There were a lot of distractions over the last 24 hours. Everybody had something to say about Matt Cooke. Then Matt Cooke was suspended for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. Later, Matt Cooke said he was sorry. The Penguins took the D by storm and jumped out to a 4-0 lead on the Red Wings. Then they nearly collapsed completely. Then they escaped with two points thanks to a James Neal shootout bullet that Jimmy Howard never saw. After a long and harrowing day, this made you get up off the couch and do a little two-step.
The Pens were in control out there for a while, too. But let's stay grounded. The Red Wings looked like Ottawa, giving up more odd-man breaks through 40 minutes than they did in the 2008 and 2009 Cup Finals series combined. To make matters worse for Detroit, Jimmy Howard may have been drunk. And Pascal Dupuis scored two goals by accident.
If the first two periods weren't as good as they looked, the third period wasn't as bad. As soon as Hank Zetterberg got a lucky bounce off a skate late in the second to make it 4-1, you knew the Wings were going to make a run. Brent Johnson was just not up to the task at the start of the third, giving up a softy early. Next thing you knew, Alexei Kovalev gets two minutes for being completely overmatched in the defensive zone, and the Pens were on the ropes.
Even with MAF in net, this wasn't going to be a blowout. In Detroit, you expect drama, and you expect the Penguins to win in overtime.
- Johnson owed us that glove save late in the third.
- The Staal-Kennedy-Kunitz line continues to impress. The Wings often have difficulty with Staal and Kennedy, and adding Hands to that line takes it to another level entirely. All three of them are playing with unprecendented confidence right now. How do you break them up? You can't.
- Pierre Maguire loves the leadership of so many people. As a player, I imagine he was hard pressed to decide whom to follow.
- Let's be honest with Alexei Kovalev, because we love him and he deserves it. He was beyond bad last night. At one point, late in the third, he wasn't flying with the puck through the neutral zone so much as he was waddling. He was virtually helpless in the defensive zone. He couldn't handle pressure on the power play and tossed the puck blindly to where he hoped the point men would be. He was just completely out of gas. I still think, if he's used judiciously, Kovalev can be a force. But right now he's making the old-man version of Billy Guerin look lightning quick. Not pretty.
- Kris Letang doesn't get mad, he gets really mad. Love his fire. But he was so worked up, he made an overly aggressive pinch on the late third period power play that almost cost the Penguins the game.
Huge 2 points. Thursday in Philadelphia? Huger.