Stanley Cup – Penguins Celebrate 2-1 Victory over the Red Wings for the Cup
The tables were turned in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, as Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby hoisted the Stanley Cup onto his young shoulders. The Penguins managed a 2-1 victory in Game 7 of their series against the Detroit Red Wings, a win that brought them the Stanley Cup for the first time in over 15 years.
Even though the heavily-favored Red Wings had a managed a lead twice in the series – first at 2-0, then at 3-2 – the Penguins always managed to even the score. Each team had won three games at home, and the two entered into a Game 7 winner-take-all in Detroit.
The Penguins’ Maxime Talbot was able to score two goals for his team in the second and the Wings were unable to tie the score – although not for lack of trying. In fact, Detroit outshot Pittsburgh overall, 23-17.
“It’s hard, you know,” 39-year-old Wings captain Niklaus Lidstrom explained. “You’re so close to a Stanley Cup. You’re fighting hard the whole season to put yourself in that situation, so it’s hard losing the way we did tonight.”
The game began with a scoreless first period, although the Penguins made 11 shots on goal to the Wings’ 6. At the start of the second, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin pressured Wings defenseman Brad Stuart into slapping a bad pass. Talbot was able to intercept, firing the puck past Detroit netminder Chris Osgood at just over 1 minute.
The assist was Malkin’s third in the series. Game 7 was the second consecutive game in which neither Crosby nor Malkin scored for the Penguins, although Malkin, who was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for postseason MVP, led NHL scorers in both the regular season and in the playoffs.
Nine minutes later, Talbot made a wrist shot from the left circle, sliding under the crossbar to push the Penguins’ lead to two at 10:07.
Crosby, who played just one shift in the second before leaving the ice due to a knee injury, lauded his teammate. “Max came up with some big goals there,” the captain said. “We don’t get to this point without everyone contributing. I knew the guys were going to find a way to pull it off.”
Pittsburgh’s Bill Guerin stated more simply, “Thank God for Max Talbot.”
And Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh’s on-again, off-again goaltender wiped away bad memories of Game 5’s 5-0 shutout loss to the Wings and played a remarkable Game 7. He made 23 saves of 24 shots, stopping Detroit’s 3rd period flurry of shots –the Wings outshot the Penguins 6-1 – including a final denial of four-time champion Lidstrom with just one second left on the clock.
Jonathon Ericsson had managed to cut the Wings’ deficit to one with 6:07 left in the game. Niklas Kronwall came close to tying the game with 2:14 left, but he slapped the crossbar. Then came Lidstrom, who was officially marked as 59 feet away but who was in fact much closer. Lidstrom targeted the empty side of the net.
Fleury, however, threw himself bodily across the ice, stopping the puck with his chest.
“I knew there wasn’t much time left,” the now-legendary netminder explained. “I just decided to get my body out there and it hit me in the ribs.”
It was an impossible save that gave the Penguins the Cup.
The victory paralleled the two-year duel between the New York Islanders and the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers, a young upstart team, were defeated by the veteran New York Islanders in the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs; the next year, the Oilers returned, defeating their erstwhile conquerors, and claimed the Stanley Cup. Over twenty years later, the Oilers find a counterpart in the Penguins, as the Islanders do with the Red Wings.
However, unlike the Islanders, the Red Wings are not down and out for the count. Many of their key players will remain for the next several years, although next year is Lidstrom’s last. The Wings anticipate a strong season next year.
“I’d rather be out there [celebrating victory on the ice],” Wings player Henrik Zetterberg admitted. “But we’ll learn from this, too. It’s going to make us stronger. We have a great group of guys in here.”
Oh yes, the Red Wings will be back. But for now, the Penguins can relish their victory, enjoying the fame that comes with being the best team in the NHL.