DETROIT (AP) – Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux were both in the building when the Stanley Cup finals opener changed in a way it couldn’t have during their Hall of Fame careers.

With the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins tied late in the second period, the Penguins cleared the puck down the ice for a routine icing call. Only now in this post-lockout NHL, icing can be devastating.

Not only does the faceoff come back in the offending team’s end, but that club must keep its players – who are often tired – on the ice. The rule is only four years old, put into play to create offense. And it worked just as it was supposed to.

The Penguins were caught with a drained top line in their own zone, unable to clear the puck and eventually keep it out of their net. That goal put Detroit back in front and sent them on the way to a 3-1 victory Saturday night.

Sensing the game was on the line at that point, even with more than one period left, rookie Penguins coach Dan Bylsma tried to help out the tired trio of Sidney Crosby, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz.

Bylsma spent his lone timeout with 1:14 left in the period, but couldn’t keep his club even for long.

Just 16 seconds later, those exhausted Penguins were still on the ice when Johan Franzen banked in a goal off netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, restoring the defending champions’ lead.

The crowd was roaring, the momentum had shifted, and the Red Wings were on their way to a win.

Lemieux couldn’t help his team from the Penguins’ owner’s box. Howe, who dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff, couldn’t have imagined such a rule when he played in the days when the Red Wings were one of only six NHL teams.

Pittsburgh might be searching for another respite, like the lifeline Bylsma attempted to toss them, but there is little time. Game 2 is Sunday night back in raucous Joe Louis Arena, where the Penguins failed to score in a pair of losses that kicked off last year’s finals.

The Penguins looked better at the start of the rematch, but they already face the prospect of being down 2-0 by the time they get back home for Game 3 on Tuesday.

So much for the young Penguins being the fresh, healthy and rested ones.

The Red Wings are banged up, forced to start the finals without Pavel Datsyuk (foot), their regular-season scoring leader and fellow forward Kris Draper. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom came back from an injury that forced him to miss the last two games of the Western Conference finals. Another defenseman, Brian Rafalski, also was sidelined during the playoffs.

Maybe those nicks and bruises provided a necessary break, too. The first four games will be played in a six-night span.

“I keep reading that we’re the tired team and that we didn’t get enough rest,” said 47-year-old Chris Chelios, who wasn’t in Detroit’s lineup. “But (Rafalski) last round – I’m talking about guys that log a lot of minutes – Nick had a couple of games off, Jonny Ericsson got a couple of games off. The deeper this series goes, if it does go deep, I think those key guys got a lot of rest.”

The belief was that the Penguins, who hadn’t played since finishing off Carolina on Tuesday night, brought fresh legs and a new dose of experience that was gained during last year’s finals loss to the Red Wings.

So far, the Penguins are the ones trying to catch their breath.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.