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Penguins make history, win Stanley Cup over Detroit thumbnail

Penguins make history, win Stanley Cup over Detroit

June 13, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments

Awestruck. That’s one way to describe the epic conclusion to tonight’s Game 7. Say what you will but the Pittsburgh Penguins sure earned it. Congratulations to them on hanging on for dear life to edge the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 at a stunned Joe Louis Arena.

The defending champs have been dethroned becoming the first team to lose a Game 7 at home for all the marbles since the 1971 Blackhawks, who fell to Montreal. We have a new champion and just maybe a passing of the torch. You really have to tip your hat to these Pens, who at one point this season were struggling in 10th place before GM Ray Shero axed Michel Therrien, wisely bringing up Dan Bylsma from Wilkes Barre/Scranton. It was that change in coaching philosophy along with two huge deals for proven Cup winners Bill Guerin (thanks Islanders) and Chris Kunitz that helped turn them into 2008-09 Stanley Cup champs.

In a series that emulated 2003 that saw the Devils and Mighty Ducks take turns winning at home before New Jersey did it one last time for their third championship, the Pens showed tremendous mettle shaking off a horrible Game 5 that saw them humiliated 5-0 by posting a pair of impressive 2-1 wins with key role players stepping up. No. Neither Sidney Crosby, who became the youngest captain at age 21 to lift Lord Stanley nor well deserved Conn Smythe winner Evgeni Malkin scored any of the four.

Instead, the underrated checking line anchored by Jordan Staal- who became the second Staal brother to win the Cup three years after older brother Eric did so with Carolina- delivered big goals with the third line pivot and Tyler Kennedy getting this more gritty determined Pittsburgh club to tonight’s history making moment. As it turned out, they really echoed their captain’s losing words after last year about never wanting to come that close again. It was that kind of will that allowed them to overcome their early series struggles in a hostile environment that saw them get outscored by a combined 11-2 headed into hockey’s biggest game in prime time.

None of that mattered because from the very drop of the puck, you could tell how hungry the guys in the road white, gold and black were giving as good as they got in a very competitive scoreless first that saw them hold a 10-6 shots edge. Despite not converting on their lone power play after some awesome attack time, the Pens didn’t hang their heads instead continuing to come at the defending champs in the pivotal second.

One thing which was evident was that the Red Wings, who usually are so crisp in such pressure packed games were turning the puck over. It was there for the taking and the younger, bigger team finally pounced on a couple of glaring mistakes by culprit Brad Stuart. The first was an innocent dump from defenseman Brooks Orpik, who didn’t gain the red line yet neither vet ref tandem Bill McCreary or Paul Devorski were able to detect it. Sometimes, you get those breaks when you’re working hard. And the Wings still had control of the puck behind the net when Stuart made an atrocious pass off Malkin’s skate which was easily intercepted by an opportunistic Talbot. The Russian then calmly waited using a Detroit player as a screen before deking forehand to beat Chris Osgood for the game’s first tally 1:13 into the second. It was Malkin’s playoff best 22nd assist and first point in three games.

You never sensed any panic from the Detroit bench despite getting scored on first. But they also weren’t able to generate the kind of quality opportunities that would even threaten Marc-Andre Fleury, who hardly saw any rubber until the defending champs woke up the final three minutes. By that point, they trailed by two with the realization that they could actually lose sinking in. Once again, it was Talbot who did the damage scoring his series pacing fourth thanks to another brutal turnover by Stuart. The defenseman made a poor pinch getting outworked by Chris Kunitz, who then sprung Talbot and a teammate on a two-on-one. Wisely holding onto the puck as a hustling Wing took away the pass, he didn’t make any mistake going upstairs past Osgood’s glove for his eighth of the postseason, increasing to 2-0 at 10:07.

At that juncture, the stunned Joe began encouraging their team with “Let’s Go Wings” chants to try to rally them on a night where they just didn’t seem in synch. Their passes continued to be off and everytime they tried to attack, a stingy Pens D bent but didn’t break keeping the chances to the perimeter which made it very easy for Fleury. In fact, shots at one point were 12-7 with the home team really struggling. They only had nine shots with less than five minutes left in the middle stanza.

Maybe it was at this point that you sensed the panic from a team that never shows it. They began overstaying shifts and star players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg along with Johan Franzen were trying to do too much. Some of the decisions were questionable with a horrible pinch by Brian Rafalski that nearly cost another goal prior to Talbot’s second. It was that kind of night for one of the best teams we’ve ever seen over the last two decades. Sometimes, even the best can show chinks in their armor.

Finally, Mike Babcock’s club began to show signs down two with under three minutes left. They began carrying the play with the relentless forecheck that’s been a Detroit staple which had produced four Stanley Cups with tonight’s version trying to match the 1997 and 98 teams as the league’s first repeat winner. Suddenly, the Wings got shots through forcing Fleury to be good including a last second stone job on a Zetterberg backhand from in tight as the buzzer sounded. Maybe last year, that goes in for the 2008 Conn Smythe winner. But he couldn’t get it up allowing the Pitt netminder to get a pad on it preserving the two-goal cushion.

By then, I knew the third would be interesting because if the Red Wings were going down, they were going to throw everything at the Pens. With Detroit again buzzing early in the third, Mark Eaton took down Mikael Samuelsson handing the home club a second power play. A perfect chance to get back in it and make a two-goal comeback a lot easier. Score one early and then swarm the Pens until you get the equalizer. But it wasn’t to be with Fleury coming up with a couple of big saves and Marian Hossa (remember him?) whizzing one high and wide. The second half saw Pitt’s solid penalty killing take over with superb defensive work from Talbot, Craig Adams and Staal. Oh. They also got plenty of help from defensemen Brooks Orpik, Hal Gill and Game Six hero Rob Scuderi.

If there was one huge difference in the Cup rematch, it was the Pens’ grit on D getting the jerseys dirty. That’s the kind of sacrifice required in making NHL history by becoming the first team to ever comeback from two 0-2 deficits to win Lord Stanley with them pulling the magic hat trick off two rounds earlier against Alex Ovechkin and the Caps.

And so, the Pens were still in control up two despite not coming close to registering a shot on Osgood. Shots were five-zip Detroit. They were trying to win the franchise’s third championship since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr delivered back-to-back titles in 1991-92. Even a bigger storyline was that they were looking to do it minus their leader Crosby, who took a vicious clean hit by Franzen along the wall that left him hobbled in the second favoring a leg. The league’s poster boy was reduced to a spectator returning back to the Pen bench for morale support in the third. Oh. He took one brief shift out for a rare offensive draw but it didn’t take long for Sid The Kid to realize he was done. It was up to his teammates.

With Detroit still pressing to get back in it, they finally got sustained pressure with Jiri Hudler and Lidstrom working the puck around to a vacated rookie Jonathan Ericsson, whose one-timer whizzed by Fleury’s glove slicing the deficit to 2-1 with 6:07 left. Suddenly, we had a contest which wouldn’t lack drama the rest of the way.

But as the Wings continued to press with Babcock finally juggling lines (why did he wait till the 3rd when it was obvious they needed a change midway thru???). But despite much more puck possession, they couldn’t get many shots to Fleury with the Pens using a Steel Curtain (hey, it works) in front keeping them from reaching their netminder. On the night, they blocked 20 while the Wings only got in the way of three. Yes. Even little used Pascal Dupuis had as many blocks as the entire Detroit team. And that Orpik guy blocked five. Both teams played physical with the Pens holding the edge 44-35. And maybe right there, those two areas tell you why this time was different. They wanted it more.

Nursing a one-goal lead, Pitt finally got their only shot with it coming from the most dangerous player in Malkin, who forced a turnover and skated into the Detroit zone firing a long distance bomb that Osgood made a good skate save on with under seven minutes remaining. That was it. The rest of the period saw the Pens doing whatever they could to hang on. It was working because the defensive intensity was tremendous and they also got an inspired shift from Adams, who kept the puck in the Detroit zone for thirty seconds along with linemates.

As the clock got closer and closer to zero, the Wings turned it up getting pucks in. But the passing still wasn’t great with too many East/West passes  getting picked off and cleared. It just wasn’t what you’d come to expect. Their best chance to tie it came when Niklas Kronwall snuck one through a maze that rang off Fleury’s best friend the crossbar with 2:11 left. Between that close call and Zetterberg’s goalpost last game, maybe that was a tell tale sign that it was the Pens’ turn.

The Wings continued to press finally getting Osgood to the bench for an extra attacker with 77 seconds to go. But the Pens just wouldn’t break keeping the Wings away from the net. Even Tomas Holmstrom and Franzen couldn’t get one of those ugly goals we’d become so accustomed to at this time of year. A couple of offsides didn’t help Detroit forcing neutral zone faceoffs. Somehow, they still were able to get one last chance when they forced a final draw with 6.7 seconds left. It would turnout to be the longest 6.7 seconds in Penguins’ history.

Zetterberg won it drawing back to Rafalski, whose shot through another maze trickled off a player going to the left where their captain Lidstrom was all alone. Would the six-time Norris winner hammer it home and force an improbable sudden death? But as he got to the puck which was away from his body, it allowed a sprawling Fleury enough time to recover for one last final save. The puck wasn’t up enough and Fleury dove across getting a pad on it with an excited Doc Emrick calling what he’d seen.

A year ago, it was Hossa with the puck on his stick and a chance to tie Game Six forcing sudden death only to see Osgood take it away and the Red Wings celebrate on their home ice. This time, Fleury turned the tables denying one of the greatest players the sport’s ever seen to stunned disbelief on Detroit faces as the buzzer sounded with the Pens mobbing their goalie. They had just won the Stanley Cup.

Eat your heart out Marian Hossa, who snubbed a long-term deal to stay in Pittsburgh for one year with Detroit. One can only wonder what he must’ve been thinking as he shook hands with former teammates. As my Dad echoed, Hossa’s are just losers. And I’d know something about it. Still hard to believe Marcel once outplayed older brother during a Ranger sweep over Atlanta. Apparently, Marian just sealed his fate as a playoff choker who never should be considered by any sane management as a go-to guy. How else do you explain going from 40 goals which paced these Red Wings to just six this Spring while managing only three assists versus his former club?

Even more amazing, what if he’d signed back up with Pitt? Would they really have been 10th playing so miserably that reaching the pinnacle would’ve seemed unreal? Come on. Even more, does Therrien get fired if Hossa’s there producing alongside Crosby? We doubt it. And what that means is no Bylsma, who ran a better bench and probably no Kunitz or Guerin, who can send Garth Snow a postcard of him with Lord Stanley this summer. Does anyone think he doesn’t ride off to the sunset? What else is there to accomplish? He’s come full circle and gotten the monkey off his back. Good for him!

Amazing how things turn out. Instead, Hossa wound up again on the losing side with plenty of egg on his face while Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Co. celebrated in style on Detroit ice.

Congratulations Pittsburgh. You sure deserve it! Even if weasel Gary Bettman erred during his speech saying Mario Lemieux saved the franchise. No, he didn’t. You did! Wonder what he said to Sid as he handed him the hardware? We’ll never know. Gotta say it’s all too ironic that it was Crosby’s teammates who delivered while he nervously watched next to goofball Pierre McGuire.

Was extremely glad to see Malkin get the Conn Smythe and also loved that Crosby passed the Cup to vets like Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko along with another ex-Devil Petr Sykora and Sergei Gonchar along with our Buffalo blogger’s fave Miroslav Satan. Great stuff indeed.

And so concludes another great season. The NHL Awards are next week and the much anticipated Draft in Montreal is two weeks away. Can hardly wait.

Special thanks to Hasan and Brian for their many contributions this year. You’ve made this place so much fun and I really love the direction we’re going. And thank you to the fans, who read us. Without you, it wouldn’t be possible.

Hope everyone has a great summer.

Three Stars:

3rd Star-Jordan Staal, Pit (2 SOG, 4 takeaways, 3 hits, 4-for-12 draws in 25 shifts-17:25)

2nd Star-Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (23 saves incl. last second stop on Lidstrom as buzzer sounded)

1st Star-Max Talbot, Pit (2 goals incl. Cup clincher w/9:53 left 2nd, 4 goals in series led everyone, 3 SOG, +1 in 19:08)

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  1. Penguins make history, win Stanley Cup over Detroit on June 13th, 2009 12:20 am

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  2. Penguins make history, win Stanley Cup over Detroit | Long Distance Inc on June 13th, 2009 1:19 am

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  3. Hasan on June 13th, 2009 9:15 am

    I was at the Met-Yankee debacle last night and taped this game over that one, guess I made the right choice after all lol.

    After they squared the series from 2-0 down again, I figured the Pens would win somehow, even after Game 5. Just seemed like their time. I did randomly meet a Pens fan in her Crosby jersey at one of the subway stops after the game and congratulated her.

  4. Derek Felix on June 13th, 2009 12:13 pm

    Very cool. I congratulated a Pen fan I know on YouTube. Their team sure earned it. Their D turned out to be the difference. Tho it helps when Brad Stuart hands you the game and Hossa sees ghosts the entire series.

    Not touching what happened in that other game. Yikes.

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