EAST LANSING, Mich. — When Kevin Lynch threaded several Michigan State defenders to score on Will Yanakeff at 11:10 of the second period, giving the Wolverines a 2-0 lead over their arch-rival Spartans, it looked like the Wolverines might roll to their fourth win in a row.
That was before Torey Krug decided to make a statement.
Krug, a junior and the Spartans’ captain, scored two goals from the left point – one at 13:16 in the second period, the second at 1:26 in the third – and set up Matt Berry’s game-winning goal on the MSU power play at 13:16 in the third.
Don’t expect him, though, to take credit for turning this one around.
“I think it all starts with the great job of our forwards down low,” said Krug. “Our guys are really buzzing.”
It was a big win for the Spartans, who lost and tied to Michigan earlier in the season and who came into this weekend three points behind the Wolverines. Over 7,000 fans packed Munn Ice Arena in spite of the icy road conditions and this fifth-largest home crowd in MSU history was treated to a win that knotted the Spartans with the Wolverines in third place in the CCHA standings.
“For a program and a team here trying to get the crowd back into it, that was exactly the script that we wanted,” said Krug. “We were down early. Yanny kept us in it early. He made a lot of big saves. We played back and we stuck with what the coaches asked us to do and we were fortunate to come out here with a win.”
As unwilling as Krug was to acknowledge his role in tonight’s win, both MSU coach Tom Anastos and his UM counterpart, Red Berenson, recognized how impressive Krug was tonight.
“Big-time players play big on the big stage,” said Anastos. “That’s what he did tonight. He was the catalyst for us offensively. He played with great emotion and yet, great discipline. Early in the game, he took a couple pretty big hits and yet he stayed very poised, he stayed cool. I was really proud of his effort tonight because he was really good. I enjoyed watching him.”
Said Berenson, “He’s an elite player in this league. You hope just to keep him off the score sheet.”
Krug’s second goal of the night was his sixth of the season on the power play, where he likes to snipe from the blue line. The position from where Krug scored – and MSU’s opportunity to do so with the man advantage – wasn’t lost on Berenson.
“[The Spartans] were blocking shots from our point and we were not blocking anything,” said Berenson. “When you get two point-shot goals at least and could have had a couple more, they were paying the price more than we were. We were playing too soft.
“In the third period, we’re trying to tell our team to play five-on-five and stay away from anything and we get two penalties and it cost us two goals and the game’s almost over.”
The Spartans have the 16th-best power play in the country, not exactly something that’s been a game-changer so far – and that wasn’t lost on Anastos.
“It hasn’t been very often this season that the power play has been a big reason for a win, and it was tonight,” said Anastos.
Anastos said that perseverance was as important as a timely power play tonight.
“I’ve said it all year long,” Anastos added. “I think we have a very poised team of guys and they just stayed with it. We went out before the third period and said, ‘Boys, we’re going to win this third period. We’re going to get that next goal. The crowd is going to help will us to a win and we’re going to win the period and win the game.’ That’s what happened.”
The teams meet again Saturday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for their final regular-season game of 2011-12. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m.