DETROIT — Max Talbot scored two goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins overcame an injury in the second period to captain Sidney Crosby to defeat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in a gripping Game 7 to win the Stanley Cup on Friday night.
The Penguins won a third Cup in their history and their first since their championships in 1991 and 1992.
Rookie Jonathan Ericsson scored with 6:07 left in the third period for Detroit, which failed in a bid for a second straight Cup and fifth in 12 seasons.
The popular Talbot, whose linemate Evgeni Malkin accused him jokingly of having “bad hands” early in the series, ended up leading the final with four goals.
And the Penguins avenged a loss in six games in last year’s final to the same Red Wings, who could not repeat as champion against a gifted young team that had too much energy and firepower for the battered and perhaps fatigued home side.
“I’m just kinda caught in the moment right now,” Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik told CBC. “I’m so thrilled with this.”
It was also a hard loss to swallow for Red Wings winger Marian Hossa, who left the Penguins as a free agent last summer because he felt he had a better chance to win in Detroit. Hossa was held without a goal in the final.
Marc-Andre Fleury, chased from the net after allowing five goals in Game 5 a week ago, bounced back with a huge game as the crowd of 20,066 spurred their team with chants and roars through a stunning end to what had been a thriller series between Pittsburgh’ young talent and Detroit’s cool and efficient veterans.
To Talbot, Fleury’s performance was extra special.
“We’ve been friends forever and it’s just a great relationship,” Talbot told CBC. “I told him when I got the first goal, I told him I got the game winner, you gotta keep it for me. And he did it.”
Crosby left the game 5:30 into the second period when he was hit along the boards by Johan Franzen, jamming his left leg. The playoff goal-scoring leader limped to the bench and to the training room and didn’t return until the third period, playing just one shift.
The Penguins led 1-0 at the time and Talbot got his second goal five minutes later as Crosby’s teammates, many getting more ice time than they’re used to, worked to contain an all-out attack from the desperate Red Wings the rest of the way.
The Red Wings controlled the opening minutes of a scoreless first period, but by mid-period, the Penguins began to press and Jordan Staal was stopped on a good chance from in front. But late in the period, Fleury stoned Detroit veteran Kirk Maltby from the doorstep.
Pittsburgh was in the Detroit end from the opening faceoff of the second frame and it produced the first goal as Evgeni Malkin stripped Brad Stuart of the puck and fed Talbot, who beat Chris Osgood with a shot along the ice to the far post at 1:17.
At 10:09, Chris Kunitz won a battle with Stuart to set up a two-on-one break. Talbot elected to shoot and his high attempt found the top corner to Osgood’s glove side.
The Penguins played the final period as though killing a long penalty, but Joe Louis Arena erupted in glee when Fleury missed Ericsson’s high shot from the right point with his glove to make it a one-goal game.
With just under two minutes to play, Niklas Kronwall’s wrist shot had Fleury beat but struck the cross-bar and a last-minute six-man swarm came up empty.
The Penguins matched the 1971 Montreal Canadiens as the only teams to win the Cup on the road in Game 7 after home teams won all six previous games and the only team to win two Game 7s on the road in the same playoff year. They also won in Washington in seven in the second round.