June 1, 2009 at 1:32 am

John Niyo

Zetterberg driving Pens' Crosby to distraction


Sidney Crosby can't shake Henrik Zetterberg, no matter how hard he tries in this Stanley Cup Finals.

Shadowed all over the ice by the Wings' two-way whiz, Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins' star, finally found himself alone in front of the net with a prime scoring chance early in the third period of Game 2.

He fired once past Chris Osgood and watched the puck carom off the far post and across the goal mouth back to him. Crosby, the NHL leader with 14 playoff goals, took another swipe at it, and was robbed on a sprawling save by ... Zetterberg?

Of course. Who else would you expect? With Osgood out of position, the Swede went diving to the ice to preserve a 2-1 lead 1:39 into the period. Barely a minute later, Justin Abdelkader's knuckler fooled Marc-Andre Fleury at the other end and the Penguins were foiled again at Joe Louis Arena.

That hardly means this series is history, but the flashbacks can't be helping Crosby & Co. right now. A year ago, they limped home empty-handed after back-to-back shutouts in Detroit. This time, they managed a single goal on consecutive nights.

Only once in 32 previous tries has a team come back from an 0-2 deficit without home-ice advantage and managed to win the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh gave it a try a year ago, extending the Wings to six games. Now, they'll have to regroup and try, try again, with Crosby desperately trying to find some breathing room in the Igloo.

Nothing is easy

Crosby, with 28 points this postseason, was held off the score sheet only twice in his first 17 playoff games this spring. The Wings blanked him twice in the span of 27 hours at Joe Louis Arena this weekend, though Crosby did put five shots on net Sunday, set up the lone goal with a big faceoff win, and prompted Osgood to say he's "playing great."

"It hasn't been easy," Osgood added, a feeling with which Crosby can certainly relate.

"There's tons of explanations, but the fact is you get quick chances and either you put them in or you don't," Crosby said in a quiet visitors' dressing room. "And that's the difference."

Clearly, though, the Wings are treating Crosby differently, blanketing him defensively. Zetterberg is breathing down his neck almost every time he jumps over the boards, and there's a second forward plus a defenseman converging on Crosby nearly every time he touches the puck across the red line.

If he had trouble sleeping Saturday night, it's understandable: Zetterberg was probably snoring loudly underneath his bed. Or at least phoning his hotel room every hour, on the hour.

"It's a challenge, for sure," Crosby admitted. "There's no doubt there's a healthy competition out there."

It had to be a sick feeling for him, though, didn't it? Watching Zetterberg, for the second straight night, smothering a puck inches from the goal line? Saturday, Crosby lobbied for a penalty shot after Zetterberg covered a loose puck resting on Osgood's back in the crease. Sunday, the reigning Conn Smythe winner might've gotten away with another illegal glove save -- at least the way Crosby saw it.

"He was pretty deep behind him -- it was pretty close," Crosby said of the would-be tying goal.

"It was hard to see. I thought (Zetterberg) covered it, I really do. It was a tough call for the refs to make."

And another tough night for Sid the Kid. But in Detroit, that's all he knows.

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