It all came down to this. After Pittsburgh’s win in game 6, we headed back to Motown for a final definitive game to determine the Stanley Cup champions. While the Red Wings had the home ice advantage, the Penguins were hoping to ruin the party at Joe Louis Arena. Pittsburgh 2 @ Detroit 1 – It was a difficult series, but the Penguins did it. They’re the Stanley Cup champions! After spending the entire series playing catch-up, the young Pittsburgh team finally stepped up and took home the big trophy.
The first period was fairly quiet as the score remained scoreless for the 20 minute frame. Pittsburgh took the lead early in the second period on the first of Max Talbot’s two goals. Talbot pounced on a turnover by Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart. Once he got his hands on the puck, he wrists a shot through the leg pads of Osgood to give the Penguins the slight advantage.
About nine minutes later, Talbot struck again. This time, he took a pass from teammate Chris Kunitz to lead a 2-on-1 against Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall. Talbot fired the shot and the puck zipped pass Osgood’s glove and into the far corner of the net to give the Penguins a 2-0. It was deja vu all over again as the Red Wings had to undergo another uphill battle from that point on.
The Wings were still a deadly team. They did not go down without a fight. With 6:07 remaining in the period, defenseman Jonathon Ericsson cut the lead in half with a slapshot past Fleury. The Penguins were hanging on to their small lead as they only managed 1 shot in the third period that was clearly dominated by a Detroit team that was desperate for a tying goal. Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom had a chance to force overtime, with a wide-open net off a rebound in a wild scramble in the dying seconds, but Fleury got over in time to stop it.
Once again in the series, it wasn’t the big stars that stole the spotlight. The determining factor were the unsung heroes. Aside from the big offensive support from Talbot, the other players also did their part to shut down a very strong Detroit team. The Pittsburgh defense shunned all the naysayers as they proved to be fairly effective throughout the game. Brooks Orpik provided a physical presence as he stopped many Detroit players in their tracks and blocked a few shots. Rob Scuderi also demonstrated his resourcefulness behind the blueline. He even snagged himself an assist on Talbot’s second goal. Sidney Crosby only clocked in 37 seconds in the third period after a collision with Johan Franzen in the second period. This provided more ice time for the players on the young Pittsburgh squad and they managed to narrow Detroit’s shot count to only 8 despite being outplayed. Fleury also proved that he is an all-star goalie as he stopped 24 of 25 shots.
In a series that seemed like the games were determined by the presence of the hometown crowd, it finally had a victory by a road team. The Pens became the first team since the 1971 Montreal Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup after dropping the first two games on the road.
It was also a rewarding game for Pens coach Dan Bylsma. He was part of the 2003 Mighty Ducks squad that came very close to winning the cup. While he couldn’t get the big prize as a player, he finally got it as a coach. The haunting image of Bylsma missing the golden opportunity to score on Brodeur in game 7 back in ’03 is no more as he led the Pens to their third cup in franchise history last night.
Pittsburgh wins the series 4-3
Three Stars of the Night:
1. Maxime Talbot (Pittsburgh)
2. Rob Scuderi (Pittsburgh)
3. Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh)