June 12, 2009

DETROIT -- On the night of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, the hands of Max Talbot are alright. Nine days after his linemate Evgeni Malkin jokingly remarked, "Yeah, little bit bad hands," Talbot scored twice in the second period, as the Penguins won the deciding game of the Stanley Cup finals, 2-1, at Joe Louis Arena Friday night. Winning the championship for the first time since 1992 against the team that defeated them just a year ago, the Penguins defied history, becoming the first team to win Game 7 on the road since the 1971 Montreal Canadiens.

Malkin, who assisted Talbot's first goal, finished the playoffs with a league-high 36 points and earned the Conn Smythe Trophy for most valuable player in the postseason. The Pittsburgh center, who won the Art Ross Trophy with 103 points during the regular season, became the first player since Wayne Gretzky to capture both scoring titles in the same season in 1993.

After a scoreless first period, the Penguins jumped out early in the second, getting aggressive on the forecheck. About a minute into the second period, Malkin chased a dump into the Red Wings' zone and forced Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart to rush a pass, which Malkin got a piece of and Talbot intercepted in front of Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood. Catching the netminder by surprise, he shot the puck five-hole to give the Penguins the 1-0 lead.

Talbot struck again midway through the period, cashing in on a 2-on-1 opportunity created by a heads-up pass by Chris Kunitz, who directed the puck to Talbot while he absorbed a hit along the boards. Moving up ice with TylerKennedy, the hero of Game 6, Talbot launched a wrister, high glove-side, on Osgood to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.

The goal, Talbot's fourth of the series, was a welcome answer to a potentially devastating hit Pittsburgh took about four minutes earlier. Red Wing forward Johan Franzen honed in on Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby along the boards in the neutral zone with about 14 minutes left in the period. The Swedish forward laid a heavy hip-check on the Penguins captain, who limped off into the dressing room with an apparent injury to his left leg or hip.

The absence of the superstar center didn't seem to deter Pittsburgh, though. Jordan Staal, whose line had generated the most chances for the Penguins in the first, stepped up in his place, and kept Detroit's top scorers in check. Crosby returned midway through the third period -- his only shift in the remainder of the game.

Marian Hossa, who chose the Red Wings over the Penguins in free agency last summer, saying he thought Detroit gave him a better chance to win the Cup, had to watch as his old teammates celebrate without him. He had no goals in the final series.

The Red Wings had plenty of chances on Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, but couldn't find much luck until the 13th minute of the third period, when Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson beat Fleury underneath his glove to make it a one-goal game. Through the waning minutes of the game, Detroit had its chances, including a shot by Niklas Kronwall that rang off the crossbar with a little more than two minutes left. At the next stoppage, Fleury gave the metal pipe a few loving taps, no doubt a 'thank you.'

With Osgood out of the net and an extra attacker on for Detroit, Fleury stood tall, making two key saves --one a diving play -- in the last six seconds of the game. It was only fitting that this heart-stoppingly close series came down to this: a pad save on Henrik Zetterberg, followed by a shoulder save on Nicklas Lidstrom. The Pittsburgh Penguins -- all of their hands, legs, arms and feet -- they're all just fine tonight.

You May Like