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Saturday, June 6, 2009
Hradek's instant analysis: Datsyuk, Wings' special teams bounce back in Game 5


DETROIT -- Here are some quick notes from the Red Wings' 5-0 Game 5 victory over the Penguins at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night:

• After missing the past seven playoff games due to a foot injury, Detroit star forward Pavel Datsyuk returned in a big way. The crafty Datsyuk looked like he hadn't missed a beat, dishing out a pair of assists in the easy win.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock opted to use the Hart Trophy nominee on the left side of center Henrik Zetterberg and right winger Dan Cleary. The trio struck for the game's first goal when Cleary converted a short pass from Datsyuk.

In the Wings' four-goal second period, Datsyuk made a sweet cross-ice pass from the half-wall on the left-wing side to defenseman Brian Rafalski on the right point. The clever defenseman finished the play by firing a wrist shot past the blocker of screened Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

At the 10:52 mark of the second period, Datsyuk made a quick play at his own blue line that illustrated why he's so valuable in all three zones (and why he's a Selke Trophy finalist). Veteran Penguins right winger Bill Guerin was trying to enter the offensive zone when a backchecking Datsyuk flashed his stick under Guerin's, relieving him of the puck. The savvy Russian grabbed the biscuit and quickly moved in the other direction.

Datsyuk, who not surprisingly received a huge ovation from the home crowd when he took the ice for his first shift, finished with two shots, four hits and three takeaways and was a plus-2 in 17:38 minutes. He was named the game's second star.

• In the opening minutes, the Wings got a big boost from their struggling penalty-killing unit. At the 7:16 mark, Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall was nailed for tripping Pittsburgh left winger Chris Kunitz. The Penguins couldn't have asked for a better chance at an early lead. Instead, the Wings -- taking a more aggressive approach -- never let them get set up in the zone.

They cleared the puck down the ice five times during the two minutes. On another occasion, Pens defenseman Kris Letang had a puck skip over his stick at the blue line. All that allowed Babcock to shuffle seven different forwards onto the ice, keeping the unit fresh.

I thought it was a monster moment for the Wings, who seemed to settle into their game.

• Like Detroit in Game 4, Pittsburgh lost its composure in Game 5. The Penguins took a number of dumb penalties. The Wings capitalized, scoring three power-play goals.

Several Penguins hurt their club's cause. Kunitz took needless goaltender interference and roughing penalties. Center Evgeni Malkin, who has a nasty temper to go along with his amazing skill, was whistled for an unnecessary elbow to the head of Wings forward Johan Franzen.

Star pivot Sidney Crosby got into the act, slashing Zetterberg across the leg in the neutral zone. (I will say that one didn't look so bad.) And, finally, the usually savvy Maxime Talbot slashed Datsyuk's feet. I kind of figured that someone would take a swipe at Datsyuk's injured foot. I thought it would be Pens pest Matt Cooke, not Talbot.

After the game, Pittsburgh veteran Bill Guerin set the course for Game 6. "We have to stay out of the box," Guerin said. "In the first four games, we were really good about that. We definitely have to get back to that on Tuesday."

• Cleary and Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski didn't participate in the club's morning skate, sparking some thought they might be late scratches Saturday night. Not only did both guys play, but they both also contributed goals in the winning effort.

• Fleury surrendered five goals on 21 shots before being pulled after the Wings' fifth goal at the 15:40 mark of the second period.

The young stopper's inability to stop Cleary's quick shot from outside the faceoff circles at the 13:32 mark of the first period really set his team back. Cleary fired quickly through a screen (Brooks Orpik's legs), but Fleury has to make that stop. The goal seemed to energize the Wings, who were on their heels at times in the early portion of the game.

Backup goalie Mathieu Garon made eight stops in relief of Fleury.

• Detroit goalie Chris Osgood stopped 22 shots en route to the shutout. He also recorded an assist on the club's important second goal at the 1:44 mark of the second period.

As the clubs changed at the end of a Detroit power-play chance, Osgood fired a long pass to right winger Marian Hossa, who was along the wall at the far blue line. Wings center Valtteri Filppula drove to the net, beating both Kris Letang and Malkin down the middle. Hossa flipped a soft backhand pass to Filppula, who slid the puck past Fleury.

That play doesn't happen if Osgood doesn't have the presence of mind to make the pass. It was Osgood's second assist in the playoffs.

• Game 5 got off to a fast start. The clubs went back and forth for the first 7:16 without a whistle. In that span (according NHL director of publications Greg Inglis), the teams combined for 13 hits, six shots, three blocked shots, four giveaways and four takeaways. That's a lot of action!

I thought the Penguins had the better of the play in that opening sequence. At the 2:33 mark, Pens left winger Ruslan Fedotenko had the game's first good scoring chance, positioned just outside the crease to the left of Osgood. Fedotenko tried to stuff a rebound off a Malkin shot past Osgood, who was able to turn back the chance. The Pens' failure to score early proved to be an omen of things to come.

• Throughout the playoffs, the Penguins have been burying opponents with a quick flurry of goals. In Game 4, for example, they netted three goals in a 5:37 span in the middle period. The Wings turned the tables on the Pens in Game 5, tallying a trio of goals -- two on the power play -- in 6:42 of the second period. Detroit added a fourth goal (another power-play marker) at the 15:40 mark.

• There will be two days off before Game 6. The Penguins can use that extra day to regroup. The Wings, on the other hand, can take the time to rest. With some beat-up bodies, Detroit can use the break. The extra time should be a big boost in their quest to repeat. Detroit coach Mike Babcock plans on giving his team a full day off Sunday.