DETROIT (Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Penguins claimed their revenge and a Stanley Cup with a nervy 2-1 Game Seven win over the Detroit Red Wings Friday.
The Penguins, who lost the Cup to the Red Wings in six games a year ago, join the 1971 Montreal Canadiens as the only team to drop the opening two games of a final on the road and then claw their way back to win the title.
Maxime Talbot, a grinder with a knack for scoring big goals, tallied twice in the second period while goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury answered his critics with a solid 23-save effort as the Penguins celebrated their third Stanley Cup and first since 1992.
“You score big goals through your career, it feels like it stays with you and people talk about it,” Talbot told reporters.
“Now you start believing it and you just say to yourself you’re that type of player.”
Outside a playoff spot in February, the march of the Penguins began with an 18-3-4 run to close out the regular season and then four grueling best-of-seven playoff series to clasp the Cup that slipped through their fingers last season.
The humbled Penguins watched the Red Wings raise the Cup last year and parade it around the Joe Louis Arena, but on Friday it was Pittsburgh’s turn to celebrate.
Captain Sidney Crosby accepted the Stanley Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and hoisted it high above his head while his team mates embraced each other and cheered.
“It’s a dream come true, everything you imagine and more,” said Crosby, who did not play most of the third period after a crunching hit sent him to the dressing room late in the second.
“It means so much, all the sacrifices that people make so you can get to this point, my parents, the coaches who helped me along the way.”
After winning the Cup last year, the Red Wings had made Joe Louis Arena a virtual fortress, and had lost only once in 12 home playoff games prior to Friday’s Game Seven.
Home teams had also prevailed in 12 out of 14 times the Cup finals were decided in the winner-take-all Game Seven.
But while history favored the Red Wings, destiny was riding with the Penguins.
With Pittsburgh clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Red Wings Niklas Kronwall rattled a shot off the crossbar with two minutes to play.
Nicklas Lidstrom was then denied a last-gasp equalizer when Fleury dived across the crease in the final seconds to make a spectacular save.
The aging Joe Louis Arena crackled with excitement as the Red Wings took to the ice for their first Game Seven final in 54 years, a squid splattering onto the ice just prior to the opening faceoff in what as become a Motor City hockey tradition.
Fleury, chased from Game Five after surrendering four second period goals in a 5-0 blowout, was tested early as the Red Wings came out flying, tapping into the energy of a raucous capacity crowd that included former-heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali.
Wearing a Red Wings jersey, Ali was in Detroit’s corner but it was the Penguins who landed the first blow just 73 seconds into the second, when Talbot intercepted a clearing pass and snapped the puck past Chris Osgood.
Talbot doubled Pittsburgh’s advantage midway through the period, breaking in on a two-on-one then crushing a slap shot that whizzed by Osgood’s glove into the top corner.
But the Red Wings would not surrender their crown without a fight, rookie Jonathan Ericsson blasting a shot from the point past Fleury with just over six minutes to set up a dramatic finish.
Editing by Ian Ransom