Penguins force seventh game with 2-1 win
PITTSBURGH – No clincher by the Detroit Red Wings in Pittsburgh, not this time in Game 6. Marc-Andre Fleury wouldn’t let it happen as a wildly unpredictable Stanley Cup finals is now going the distance.
Third-line teammates Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy gave the Penguins a two-goal lead, and Fleury held off the defending champion Red Wings repeatedly during a frantic third period as Pittsburgh beat Detroit 2-1 on Tuesday night to tie the finals at three games.
Game 7 is Friday night in Joe Louis Arena, where Detroit is 3-0 in the series but, as the oldest of NHL playoff adages goes, anything can happen when a single game determines who raises a silver trophy.
Fleury, yanked during Detroit’s 5-0 blowout in Game 5, regrouped to make 25 saves and hold off the Red Wings, who are trying for their fifth Stanley Cup since 1997 but, if they win it, will do so without winning in Pittsburgh.
The Red Wings won the Cup by taking Game 6 in Pittsburgh 3-2 last year but were denied a second successive Cup clincher there, and on the 25th anniversary of one of the biggest days in Penguins’ history: The drafting of Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux in 1984.
The Red Wings pushed around and punished Pittsburgh while winning 5-0 in Game 5, a loss that not only embarrassed the Penguins but put them on the brink of elimination.
Staal broke a scoreless tie that followed a Pittsburgh-dominated first period by scoring in the first minute of the second period and Kennedy made it 2-0 early in the third.
After that, it was all Detroit as Kris Draper scored and the Red Wings, desperately trying to avoid a Game 7, kept pressing for the tying goal but couldn’t get it despite being on the power play twice.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby taped an NHL commercial last summer in which he watched the Red Wings celebrate wildly, then vows that it won’t happen again.
We will wait until Friday to see if he is right or wrong.
In nearly identical circumstances, it didn’t as the Penguins forced the first Stanley Cup finals Game 7 in their 42-year history.
The Penguins were helped along by a standing room crowd of 17,132 – the 118th consecutive sellout in the NHL’s oldest building – that chanted Fleury’s name at the start in an effort to support him after he was yanked in the second period Saturday.
Staal’s goal was the key, just as his short-handed goal in Game 4 that started the Penguins on a three-goal flurry in less than six minutes and a 4-2 victory.
Staal broke in with Kennedy on a 2-on-1 break after Pittsburgh gained possession in the neutral zone. Staal’s initial shot deflected off goalie Chris Osgood’s chest, but Staal gathered the rebound near the right post and pushed it in only 51 seconds into the second.
Detroit, outshot 15-4 at the start, finally began generating some offensive momentum by early in the third and kept pressing for the tying goal, only to have Kennedy – a third-line forward who has scored in each of Pittsburgh’s last two home games – make it 2-0 at 5:35.
Ruslan Fedotenko and Max Talbot pressured to keep the puck in the Detroit zone, allowing Kennedy to gather it behind the net and carry it in front. Osgood stopped his initial shot but Kennedy pushed in the rebound.
A two-goal lead with Pittsburgh playing with discipline and determination looked big, but the Red Wings sliced it to 2-1 when an undefended Draper – one of four players who has been on all four of Detroit’s Stanley Cup winners since 1997 – grabbed Jonathan Ericsson’s rebound in the left circle and put it past Fleury 2 1/2 minutes after Kennedy scored.
The Red Wings, who couldn’t draw a penalty for nearly 2 1/2 periods, had their only two power plays after that. Their best chance came when Fleury left the puck in the crease, but defenseman Rob Scuderi alertly whacked it away, and Fleury made a big save on Dan Cleary with 1:41 remaining.
One play – and one missed opportunity – illustrated the difference between last year’s Game 6 and this one for Detroit. Late in the second, Henrik Zetterberg faked going to his backhand and instead put a forehand under defenseman Hal Gill that struck the left post and lay in the crease.
Last year, on a similar shot by Zetterberg, Fleury sat on the puck and accidentally pushed it into the net for the game-winner in Detroit’s 3-2 victory. This time, Fleury calmly covered up the puck.
Because he did, the Penguins forced a Game 7 in Detroit, where they have been outscored 11-2 while losing three times in this series but where the Red Wings now must preserve their home-ice advantage to raise the Stanley Cup for a fifth time in 12 seasons. Notes: Since 1997, when it won the first of its four Stanley Cups over the last dozen seasons, Detroit is 4-2 in elimination games, losing only to Pittsburgh in Game 5 last year and on Tuesday. … Penguins F Petr Sykora, who had 25 goals during the season, was in the lineup for the first time since May 4, or Game 2 of the second round against Washington. … Teams down 3-2 while hosting Game 6 have won 10 times in 24 tries), and only two have won the Stanley Cup – Detroit (1950) and Montreal (1971). … Pittsburgh is 10-0 when leading after two periods. … Detroit is 4-6 on the road.