DETROIT -- The Red Wings are tired, beat up, and only two victories away from hoisting the Stanley Cup again.
Detroit's foil is the same, the defending champion's method a little different.
For the second successive year, the young Pittsburgh Penguins came to Joe Louis Arena to kick off the Stanley Cup Finals. And just like in 2008, they're heading home down 2-0. The Red Wings topped the Penguins 3-1 on Sunday night, giving them matching victories on back-to-back nights as they pursue a repeat of their title.
"Playing back to backs and saying we'd be up 2-0, we'd be ecstatic," said Chris Osgood, who made 31 saves. "We still believe we can play better and we know we'll have to in Pittsburgh."
Whether the games are spaced out or on top of each other, the Red Wings seem to have all the answers. Detroit can rest Monday before playing road games Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Sure the Penguins aren't as scared as they were in their Finals debut last year, and yes they are younger and were more rested than their championship-laden opponents. And still they couldn't make a dent.
"It's not good," captain Sidney Crosby said, "but at the same time, it shows us our game can be successful. If we keep playing the same way, we're going to come out on the right side of things. We would have liked to have different results, but that's playoff hockey."
The Red Wings are closing in on their 12th title and fifth in 12 seasons despite the condensed schedule.
"It's hurt us. Don't kid yourself," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we were exhausted out there. It's amazing what will does for you.
"We found a way to win two games, but we haven't been as good as we're capable of being."
Rookie defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who watched the West finale Wednesday night in the dressing room hours after having his appendix removed, scored the tying goal for Detroit in the second period. He returned to the lineup Saturday.
"Just a couple years ago, it took people a month to recover," the 25-year-old Ericsson said. "It took me three days."
Valtteri Filppula added the go-ahead tally 6:08 later, and Justin Abdelkader scored his second of the series in the third. The Red Wings left the ice in front of their cheering, towel-waving fans and headed for Pittsburgh.
The odds favor the Red Wings in their bid to become the NHL's first repeat champion since they did it in 1997 and '98. Teams that win Games 1 and 2 at home have captured the Cup 31 of 32 times.
Frustration boiled over for Pittsburgh with 18.2 seconds left, when Max Talbot stuck his stick in Osgood's midsection after a save. That led to a fight between Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Zetterberg that left both players' jerseys on the ice.
Malkin was subject to a one-game suspension for being assessed in the final five minutes, but that punishment was quickly rescinded by league disciplinarian Colin Campbell.
"None of the criteria in this rule applied," Campbell said in a statement. "Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight. A suspension could also be applied when a player seeks retribution for a prior incident. Neither was the case here."
The Penguins, who dropped the opener 3-1 on Saturday night, played better in this two-game set compared to last year when the finals were new to them.
Malkin staked Pittsburgh to an early 1-0 lead. It just wasn't enough as Detroit -- especially Zetterberg -- bottled up Crosby and kept him pointless for the second straight night. Crosby had chances, first feeding a pass to Bill Guerin for a shot that hit the inside of the post in the second.
His luck was no better in the third when he too was stopped by the post. The no-goal was confirmed by video replay and induced a disgusted spit from Crosby on the bench.
Just over a minute later, Abdelkader sealed the victory with his second NHL goal and second in two nights. Not bad for a rookie who hails from Michigan.
Osgood outplayed counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury again in earning his 73rd NHL playoff victory, eighth on the career list.
Ericsson tied it at 1 at 4:21 of the second after Darren Helm won a faceoff in the Pittsburgh end.
Only 14 seconds after Malkin left the penalty box, Filppula backhanded in a rebound of Marian Hossa's shot -- with Tomas Holmstrom in front -- with 9:31 remaining.
After shutting out the Penguins by a combined 7-0 score in the first two games of the 2008 Finals, the nicked-up Red Wings bent but didn't break. And they did it again without injured forwards Pavel Datsyuk, their leading scorer in the regular season, and four-time champion Kris Draper.
The Penguins needed nearly seven minutes before Kris Letang recorded the team's first shot, but Pittsburgh finished the period with a flourish -- outshooting the Red Wings 9-0 to close the frame.
They took advantage when Niklas Kronwall was sent off for cross-checking Talbot, the only penalty called in the first.
Malkin, the playoff leader with 30 points, let go a drive that was batted in by defenseman Brad Stuart with 3:10 left in the period. Malkin has seven goals in six games and 13 during the postseason, one behind Crosby for the league lead.
- Pittsburgh's Ruslan Fedotenko had a three-game goal streak snapped.
- The Red Wings are 6-0 in Game 2s of the Finals since losing to Montreal in 1954, outscoring opponents 25-9.