PITTSBURGH -- The crowd was roaring, the fates were smiling, and the Pittsburgh Penguins were embarking on a five-on-three power play for 1 minute 26 seconds, time enough to turn the course of the Stanley Cup finals in their favor.
They sent out Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar, Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone, who had caused nightmares for opponents all season.
The Detroit Red Wings countered with Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg, all Swedes, all steadfast defensively and none fazed by this pivotal moment in this pivotal fourth game.
"It's a challenge to play against such good players, especially when you're down two guys. They have a lot of room," Zetterberg said.
"You practice it a lot all year and it's fun to have a chance to do it in a game."
Their practice made for a perfect outcome for the Red Wings, whose 2-1 victory put them in position to win the franchise's 11th Cup championship Monday, when the series returns to Joe Louis Arena for Game 5.
The teams matched goals in the first period, Hossa on a rebound during a power play and Lidstrom on a long shot that sneaked between goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's arm and the post. Jiri Hudler put the Red Wings ahead at 2:26 of the third period with a backhand shot from 15 feet, but the lead was endangered when Kirk Maltby was penalized for hooking and Andreas Lilja for interference 34 seconds later, at 10:10.
Not to worry. Zetterberg won a pair of faceoffs from Crosby, blocked a shot and took a shot on goal during the disadvantage, buying precious time and allowing Detroit to control the puck. So powerful during the season and most of the playoffs, Pittsburgh has scored only four goals in four games against Detroit, and lost for the first time at home since Feb. 24, a span of 17 games.
Fleury lost on home ice for the first time in 20 games, since Nov. 21, and although Crosby insisted that the game "could have gone either way," it was the Red Wings who made it go in their favor.
Crosby refused to praise Zetterberg. "I don't think he did anything out of the ordinary, besides any other guy would do on a five on three," Crosby said.
Now, the Penguins need a miracle. Of the 29 teams that have led the Cup finals, 3-1, since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939, 28 have won the Cup. The exception was the 1942 Maple Leafs rallying to beat the Red Wings.