Penguins hold off Red Wings with 3-2 win, down 2-1 in Stanley Cup Finals

Thursday, May 29th 2008, 4:00 AM

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Pittsburgh Penguins fans, donning all white, get ready for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

PITTSBURGH - If they're not yet alright, the Pittsburgh Penguins' kids at least have shown they're no longer overwhelmed. Thanks largely to Sid the Kid.

Sidney Crosby's two goals finally broke Detroit's series-long shutout streak and jump-started the lifeless Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings Wednesday night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Finally locating the back of the net after being shut out twice in the first two games in Detroit, the Penguins now must wait until Saturday to see if they can follow up Wednesday night's win-or-else triumph with one that can even the best-of-seven series. Confidence shouldn't be a problem - Pittsburgh is undefeated at home in nine postseason games.

Detroit did not succumb easily.

Johan Franzen scored his playoffs-leading 13th goal late in the second period to cut it to 2-1. And after Adam Hall restored Pittsburgh's two-goal lead 7:18 into the third, another former Ranger, Mikael Samuelsson, scored his third of the Finals to trim it back to 3-2 with 6:23 left.

But the Penguins hung on by killing off a late Evgeni Malkin penalty and getting the last of Marc-Andre Fleury's 32 saves. And the NHL now has hope that its dream Finals matchup won't turn out to have been a complete mismatch after all.

Crosby was asked after Wednesday's morning skate to assess his performance through the series' first two games. He wasn't about to add to the drumbeat of criticism that had pounded him and his teammates.

"I wouldn't change a whole lot, to be honest," Crosby said. "I feel like I'm moving my feet. It's tight checking. I want to make sure when I get opportunities I capitalize on my chances and execute well.

"But I wouldn't change a whole lot. They pressure a lot. I think sometimes you get caught thinking you have less time than you do, when you have those opportunities to make plays. So just really focus on reading the play and reacting right."

Crosby then went out and spent the first two periods proving he's a pretty good judge of his own play.

Continuing to push forward as he had in Games 1 and 2 but adding in a touch of patience and willingness to let the puck find him, Crosby pumped home the Penguins' long-awaited first two goals of the series to stake Pittsburgh to a 2-0 lead early in the second period.

Franzen's playoffs-leading 13th goal cut it to 2-1 with 5:02 left in the second.

The Red Wings had appeared poised to stage another passing, playmaking and checking clinic through the first 14 minutes Wednesday night. Pittsburgh went 13 minutes without a shot on goal in one first-period stretch while Detroit was firing nine at Fleury's cage. But when Pens coach Michel Therrien deployed Malkin with Crosby and regular right winger Marian Hossa for the first time in the game at even strength, everything changed.

Crosby pounced on a turnover by Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart. Dishing for an initial shot by Hossa, Crosby was off the left post when the puck ricocheted to him off Stuart and he buried it for the Pens' first goal of the series after 137 minutes and 25 seconds without one.

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