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Wings-Penguins clash brings a sense of deja vu

THE Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins have brought a strange sense of deja vu to the first Stanley Cup final rematch in 25 years.

If hockey fans are developing a weird feeling they have experienced this Stanley Cup final before it might be because they have - a year ago, when the Red Wings opened the best-of-seven series with a pair of shutout wins in the Motor City before the Penguins returned home to the Igloo to win a nail-biter.

That is exactly where the current Stanley Cup sits after three games, Detroit having opened with a pair of convincing 3-1 victories at Joe Louis Arena and the Penguins answering with a nervy 4-2 win back in the Steel City on Tuesday.

Adding to the nostalgic feelings, the finals are being played in the National Hockey League's two oldest arenas with championship banners hanging from dusty rafters in buildings haunted by Stanley Cup ghosts.

There are a few new faces on the benches of both teams but the main players in this drama remain familiar ones, the Penguins's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and the Red Wings's Nicklas Lidstrom and netminder Chris Osgood.

The symmetry of this Motor City verses Steel City rematch has not been lost on the players, who say these finals are the same - but different.

"The first three games this year, if you compare them to last year, are pretty close to almost exactly the same," Osgood said on Wednesday. "I think it was 2-2 in the third last year in Game 3 and they scored a goal with eight-to-10 minutes left."

While the Red Wings, who won Game 4 a year ago, would like nothing more than to see history continue to repeat itself with another win today and head home to the Joe with a 3-1 series lead, the Penguins know that it is at this point where the sequel must develop a new twist.

Only one team, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, has ever clawed back from a 1-3 finals deficit to lift the Cup and the Penguins are well aware of how big a hole it is to climb out of after slipping into it last year.


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