Two goals from Maxime Talbot and 23 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury helped the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup championship with a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings in Game Seven in Detroit. It was the first Stanley Cup championship since 1992 for the Penguins, who avenged last year's 4-2 finals series defeat to the Red Wings and allowed Sidney Crosby to become the youngest captain to lift the Stanley Cup at just 21.
"It means so much. It's even way beyond that," said Crosby, who had to leave the game in the second period after injuring his left knee. "I had to sit and wait and watch, but we don't get to this point without everyone contributing, and I knew that the guys were going to find a way to pull it off." Crosby's fellow forward Evgeni Malkin was named Most Valuable Player for the play-offs. The Penguins went into the game as massive underdogs after being thrashed 5-0 in Game Five, giving the Red Wings a 3-2 lead and control of home ice for the decider.
But like the dancing penguin Mumble in the animated comedy film Happy Feet Pittsburgh came good at the end. The Penguins opened the scoring 1min 13secs into the second period after a clearance from the Red Wings' Brad Stuart ricocheted off Malkin's skate into Talbot's path, who slotted home between the legs of goaltender Chris Osgood. Soon after the goal, however, Crosby was slammed into the boards by Detroit's defenceman Johan Franzen and taken to the dressing rooms at the Joe Louis Arena for treatment.
In his absence, Talbot doubled the lead 10mins 7secs into the second period when he rifled home over the glove of Osgood and into the top corner. The remainder of the game belonged to the Penguins goaltender Fleury, who blocked every scoring attempt Detroit could conjure up with, barring the one by Jonathan Ericsson, who found the net with a little over six minutes of the game remaining. There was further anxiety for the Penguins when Niklas Kronwall and Nicklas Lidstrom nearly scored at different times.
But Fleury stood tall as Pittsburgh held on for their third Stanley Cup triumph. Crosby realised his childhood dream when he accepted the treasured trophy from the league commissioner Gary Bettman, kissing it before hoisting it above his head as the Penguins celebrated their first championship since 1992. "I couldn't walk," Crosby said of his injury. "So I tried numbing it as much as they possibly could and I still couldn't really skate that much. I went out for one shift. I couldn't really stop or turn. I just had to stick with it and watch from the bench.
"It was so painful. Being the captain and seeing what the guys were doing out there." Mario Lemieux, who is the Pittsburgh's principal owner, had a chance to reacquaint himself with the prize he won as a player in 1991 and 1992. He would not have held the cup on Friday if he had not saved the financially troubled franchise by becoming a majority owner and working out a deal for a new arena. "These kids are 21, 22 years old, and if they stick together 15 years, they have a chance to do something special together," he said. "I like our chances going forward."
* With agencies