PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin's 14th goal of the playoffs, on the power play, gave the Pittsburgh Penguins an early lead in their 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. It was also an indication of Malkin's determination before the game.
"We were coming out only to win," he said. "We won the previous game and we gained a lot of confidence in ourselves and in our strength. We played great, and it was an important victory for us."
The series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 in Detroit on Saturday night. I spoke with Malkin and teammate Sergei Gonchar about the victory, the Penguins' huge second period and how the psychology in the series has changed in four games.
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First, here is Malkin:
Q. In your opinion, what was the key to the victory tonight?
MALKIN: It was the fact that we played the entire 60 minutes. You cannot relax for a second against Detroit, because they are so experienced. They have a lot of shots on goal. Their defense is great and they are very goon on the counter attack. That's why it was important for us to play hard every shift.
Do you have a psychological advantage now that you have won two games in a row?
It is difficult to say because now we will have to play away from home. But without a doubt, this victory will give us a lot of energy. We believe in ourselves. I believe in myself. Maybe we do have some sort of a psychological advantage. But we're playing the next game away. It will be very difficult to play in Detroit.
Did Talbot say anything to you after the game tonight and after your comments yesterday?
No, we just congratulated each other on the win. There was nothing special.
You conceded one goal at the very end of the first period and another one in the very beginning of the first. After that your team was coming on Detroit like ocean waves? (Ed. Note: T.M.I.)
It's difficult to say. When we let in the second goal we had to even the score and that was the reason we switched gears, we had better movement, and played better defensively. In the first period Detroit outshot us badly. We talked about it and emphasized that we have to play more in the offensive zone, dump the puck deep into their zone. Their second goal was scored from the blue line. It was an odd goal. We were caught on a bad line change. After that we just kept pushing and pushing. We talked in the locker room in between periods that we have to have more shots on goal. We stuck to our plan and it brought results.
Did the shorthanded goal change the course of the game?
Yes, absolutely, it was the most important break in the game. Whenever you give up a shorthanded goal the team always deflates. It was an important goal for both teams. As for us, it was very emotional. It lifted us up.
When you were going one on one in one episode of the game with the defenseman on your back, was there a penalty there?
No, I don't think so. There was no hook or anything. The defenseman had a good play. He did very well to cover my stick. I just think that in that episode I just didn't have enough speed to break free.
Despite playing in the finals last year this year you are in the unfamiliar territory with the series being tied 2-2. How are you going to take this step to the unknown?
Right now we are not thinking about it. We won the game tonight. We will start thinking about the next game only tomorrow. It's just that the series is the best of three now. It's going to be a bit shorter now. Maybe it wasn't necessary to play the last four games. We will have to think how to win. It's good that we won both of our home games though. It just adds to our emotions and strength.
And now, here's Gonchar:
Q. In the second period your team did something that you had not been able to do until then in this series like quick rushes, crisp passing. What changed?
GONCHAR: I think that if you look at the first three games we played we always tried to do exactly that. It's just today we were able to do it a little more. Especially in the second period. The guys played great on the penalty kill, creating chances. We scored a shorthanded goal. I just think that everything we had gradually been working on is happening for us now.
Could you say that the shorthanded goal was the turning point of the game?
I think so. This shorthanded goal changed a lot. Especially because we scored shortly after that. The game just turned for us, I agree. It was especially difficult when they scored late in the first and early in the second period. But you have to give our team credit that we didn't keep our hands down. We kept on playing, kept on battling. And I think we deserved that [shorthanded goal] to happen for us.
Before the game your coach said that you were getting ready for the game as if it was a certainty that Datsyuk would play. What exactly did you change in your game plan getting ready for tonight's game?
Everyone knows what an excellent player Pavel is. Let's be honest, we were not going to change our game completely because of Pavel. It just wouldn't happen. It's just everyone realized that if Pavel were to play their team would be a lot stronger. I think this is what the coach was talking about.
What was going through your mind before the game when you knew that the score after tonight would either be 2-2 or 3-1?
To be honest I think there was pressure on both sides. I think both teams realized how important this game was. I don't think there was anything new for anyone here, especially because we played in the same situation last year as well. Every game is important in the playoffs.
Is the series different now because it is the best of three now?
No, you just have to come out and play your game without paying any attention to these things.