Invisible Pens run dry

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

DETROIT -- On the greatest night in the rather ordinary career of Mikael Samuelsson, the star of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final let his actions speak louder than his words.

This series is supposed to be about skill and speed and Sidney Crosby and selling hockey, but the script was altered by the little-known journeyman, who scored two goals on two rather large Pittsburgh errors all but enabling the puck-hogging Detroit Red Wings to win 4-0 against the Penguins last night, seemingly with ease and purpose.

"I just live in the moment," said Samuelsson, who had scored two goals in the first 16 games of the playoffs and doubled his output in Game 1.

"I'm lucky to be the one who scored a couple of goals."

What he represented last night at Joe Louis Arena is just one of the myriad of weapons the Red Wings possess and the many different ways in which they can defeat the Penguins.

"That's how we play," said goalie Chris Osgood, who recorded his second shutout of the post-season.

"We possess the puck."

That is anything but an understatement: If the Penguins touched the puck in the final two periods last night, it's hard to remember when or for how long.

The pace, the effort level, almost everything seemed beyond them.

The Red Wings may have come out slowly for the first 10 minutes, but over the final 50, they sent a riveting message to the Penguins.

The message being: You're not in Philadelphia anymore.

This wasn't going to be easy. Now they are aware of just how hard this best of seven series is going to be.

With Samuelsson, playing for his fifth NHL team, there was a strange connection to the Penguins playoff run that didn't even warrant attention prior to the series.

Once upon a short time, Samuelsson played for Pittsburgh. But during the NHL Draft of 2003, Pittsburgh swapped Samuelsson to Florida so the Pens could make the first pick in the draft.

They used that pick on Marc-Andre Fleury.

The same Fleury who Samuelsson scored twice on last night.

The goals said a lot about the way the Red Wings play and maybe about how this series will be decided.

Going in, the thinking was the stars -- Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk -- would be the players to decide the Cup. But it was figured, with those kind of players, little mistakes would quickly be converted into goals.

"That's what we do," said Osgood. "We are a patient team."

On the first of Samuelsson's two unassisted goals, the Penguins made a poor decision on a line change and got caught in a bad matchup.

Samuelsson raced down the ice, tried to wrap around on Fleury, and banked the puck off his skate into the net in the second period.

For a long time, it looked like that goal would stand up as the night's only score.

Then Samuelsson beat defenceman Hal Gill on a forecheck, took control of the puck, moved to the front of the net, then took advantage of a poor Fleury clear to make it 2-0.

Those were the only goals Detroit needed.

The late goals by Dan Cleary and Zetterberg only proved to stamp an exclamation point on the completeness of the Red Wings win.

"It was our worst performance of the playoffs," said Penguins coach Michel Therrien.

"We didn't compete ... It's a good lesson."

Or maybe it was a frightening lesson on what they are up against.

Young Crosby was effective early on as was linemate Marian Hossa, but Malkin was almost invisible in 17-plus minutes of his first Stanley Cup final play.

The rest of the Penguins seemed all but hypnotized by the Wings mastery of puck control.

And by a goal scorer nobody saw coming.

"I don't know what to say," said Samuelsson.

"I think we played good as a team tonight. I'm lucky to be the one who scored."


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