Penguins Hold Off Red Wings To Force a Decisive Game 7

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 10, 2009

PITTSBURGH, June 9 -- A year and five days ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins looked on longingly as the Detroit Red Wings celebrated winning the Stanley Cup, in their building, before their fans.

Desperate not to experience that heartbreak a second time, the Penguins did whatever it took Tuesday night -- doling out punishing hits, throwing themselves in front of shots and getting goals from unlikely sources -- to clinch a 2-1 victory and force a decisive Game 7.

"It's an unbelievable opportunity," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We found a way to survive; that's what we had to do tonight. Now it's anyone's game. They play great at home, but we've got to battle and find a way to pull it off."

Crosby was held off the score sheet for the fourth time in this series, and MVP finalist Evgeni Malkin also came up empty. But contributions from the Penguins' stars weren't required on a night when role players Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy scored and goaltender Marc-André Fleury was spectacular late.

"That's the story line of the playoffs, when your team can play well enough that different people can put on the cape on any given night," Pittsburgh Coach Dan Bylsma said.

Fleury, three days after he was pulled in a 5-0 defeat in Game 5, finished with 25 stops, 13 of which came in the third period as Henrik Zetterberg and the Red Wings pressed for the tying goal. Fleury was instrumental in turning back a pair of third-period power plays, stopped Daniel Cleary on a breakaway with less than two minutes remaining, and was aided by his teammates' 20 blocked shots.

"I knew that could be a turning point if I could make that save," Fleury said of stopping Cleary.

Thanks to that stop, the scene that unfolded here Tuesday couldn't have been more different than last year's. The Stanley Cup was placed back in its case for safekeeping. Detroit's players filed off the ice, heads down, knowing the opportunity they had squandered. And the rickety old arena in downtown Pittsburgh shook as a capacity crowd stood and cheered as the final seconds ticked down.

With a win at Joe Louis Arena, the Penguins can capture the franchise's third Stanley Cup and first since winning back-to-back titles in 1991 and 1992. The Red Wings, meantime, are seeking their fifth Cup in 12 seasons.

Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood frustrated the Penguins' early, stopping all 12 shots he faced in a scoreless first period.

But Staal delivered less than a minute into the second period. After chipping the puck around Valtteri Filppula to himself near the Pittsburgh blue line, he fired his own rebound past Osgood 51 seconds in.

A few minutes later, Matt Cooke, the Penguins' rugged winger, delivered a punishing blow to Pavel Datsyuk, separating Detroit's star center from his helmet and getting a rise out of the white-clad, towel-waving capacity crowd. Datsyuk was not injured, but Cooke had sent a message.

What Crosby and Malkin could not do, Kennedy took upon himself, scoring his fifth goal of the playoffs to give the Penguins the cushion they had been seeking. Maxime Talbot reversed the puck behind the net to Kennedy, who skated in front and jammed his own rebound over Osgood to put the Penguins ahead, 2-0, five minutes thirty-five seconds into the third period.

Pittsburgh wasn't able to remain comfortable for long, though. Grizzled Red Wings veteran Kris Draper netted his first goal of the postseason, firing a long rebound over a sprawled Fleury at 8:01 to cut the Detroit deficit to 2-1 and set up a nerve-racking final 12 minutes.

The Red Wings had a number of chances to tie the game. With 1:45 remaining, Datsyuk sent a long pass through the neutral zone to Cleary, who skated in alone on Fleury. The Penguins' goaltender got his pad and glove on the shot, preserving the lead. Then in the final seconds, during a wild scramble in the crease, defenseman Rob Scuderi went down to his knees, then made back-to-back kick saves with his shin pad on Johan Franzen to make sure the Stanley Cup would not be awarded on this night.

"The best thing you can tell them is about going out and winning the game" on Friday, said Bylsma, who played in a Game 7 loss to New Jersey in the 2003 finals as a member of Anaheim Ducks. "It's not about trying not to lose. Play the way you've played all year long. Don't sit back and wait for a mistake. That's the tough thing about a Game 7."

Finals Notes: Pittsburgh staved off elimination for a second time in these playoffs (it was tied three games apiece with the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference semifinals) and now will attempt to become only the fourth team rally from 2-0 series deficit in the final. The only other teams to accomplish the feat were 1971 Montreal Canadiens, the 1966 Canadiens and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs . . .

Penguins winger Petr Sykora returned to lineup, suiting up for only the seventh time in the playoffs.

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