PITTSBURGH – Hockeytown is home to the Stanley Cup — again. Using a little Motown magic on the road, the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in 11 seasons Wednesday night with a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the finals.
The celebration came two nights later than expected. The Penguins forced the series back to Pennsylvania by tying Game 5 with 34.3 seconds left in regulation and winning it shortly before 1 a.m. in Detroit on Petr Sykora's power-play goal in triple overtime.
Undeterred, the Red Wings wrapped up their fourth straight series on the road in these playoffs. Detroit is third in NHL history with 11 Stanley Cup titles, trailing fellow Original Six clubs Montreal and Toronto.
Just like in Game 5, things got a little dicey for the Red Wings, who allowed Marian Hossa's power-play goal with 1:27 remaining that got the Penguins to 3-2. Pittsburgh had already pulled Game 5 hero Marc-Andre Fleury to create a 6-on-4 skating edge.
With the final seconds ticking down, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby put a backhander on goal that Hossa just missed with a tip at the right post.
It set off a pile-on celebration behind the Detroit net for the Red Wings, as the disappointed fans in Mellon Arena saluted their club once more with a chant of "Let's Go Pens!"
In the best night for Swedish hockey since the national squad won the gold medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom became the first European captain of a Stanley Cup champion, and Henrik Zetterberg, who had a goal and assist in the Cup clincher, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The Red Wings were knocked out of the Western Conference finals a year ago by eventual champion Anaheim.
"It's nice to get that out of the way," Zetterberg said of the European stigma. "It's been a lot of talk, especially after last year. So it was nice to see that we could make it all the way. It's been a battle for sure, but it's a great feeling right now.
"I'm at a loss for words. It's just an unbelievable feeling."
His goal 7:36 into the third period, that was pushed in by the backside of Fleury, extended the Red Wings' lead to 3-1. He tied teammate and countryman Johan Franzen for the playoff lead with 13 goals, and matched Crosby for the postseason scoring crown with 27 points.
Lidstrom is one of five players to be with the Red Wings for their four most recent titles (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008).
Crosby came close in his third NHL season to adding a Stanley Cup to his resume that already includes a scoring crown and a league MVP award.
Only one team that trailed 3-1 in the finals came all the way back to win the Cup, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs against Detroit. Pittsburgh was trying to become the seventh to force a Game 7
Brian Rafalski gave Detroit a 1-0 lead in the first period and Valtteri Filppula doubled it in the second for the Red Wings, who had 30 shots. Chris Osgood made 20 saves and improved to 14-4 in the playoffs after taking over for No. 1 goalie Dominik Hasek in the first round of the playoffs. Osgood allowed only 30 goals in 19 games.
Detroit earned its final two victories of the championship series in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins won their first nine postseason games. Until the Red Wings came to town, the Penguins hadn't lost at home since February.
Fleury, brilliant in making 55 saves Monday night in Pittsburgh's thrilling 4-3 win in triple overtime, couldn't repeat that performance. Filppula's rebound goal 8:07 into the second period was certainly one he'd like to have back.
Mikael Samuelsson faked a shot as he crept toward the right circle and then let go a drive that Fleury blocked with the stick. The rebound came right back out in front to Filppula, who didn't get much on his shot but managed to squeeze the puck between Fleury's pads to make it 2-0.
The "white-out" clad crowd tried to muster up a "Let's Go Pens!" chant, but the stifling Red Wings defense took every bit as much out of the fans as it did the Penguins' usually potent offense.
Pittsburgh shots were blocked, passing lanes were closed off, and the puck seemed to be constantly on the sticks of the Red Wings. That is until an interference call was made against Pavel Datsyuk, who protested the penalty all the way to the box and then while inside.
That set up the goal the Penguins have been waiting for all season, the one from NHL MVP finalist Evgeni Malkin, who hadn't scored since the clinching game of the Eastern Conference finals.
Malkin, coming off a season in which he had 47 goals and 106 points, had been completely pointless until Petr Sykora's scored the overtime goal off his pass to win Game 5. This time, Crosby found him in the left circle with a cross-ice feed, and Malkin ripped a shot between Osgood's pass to cut the deficit in half at 15:26.
Rafalski struck first just 5:03 into the game, giving the Red Wings the critical 1-0 lead — an advantage that proved to be the precursor of the winning team in all but one game of the series.
The Dearborn, Mich., native in his first season with the hometown Red Wings was in line to have the Cup-winning goal when he gave Detroit a 3-2 lead in the third period of Monday night's marathon.
Sykora wrecked those plans, but nothing could deny Rafalski after two failed clearing attempts by Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi. Datsyuk passed the puck into the right circle to Zetterberg, who while falling down moved it to Rafalski in the left circle. Rafalski snapped a shot that sailed through a screen by big Tomas Holmstrom right in front of Fleury and in to make it 1-0.
It was the fourth goal of the playoffs for Rafalski, a two-time Cup winner with New Jersey.
Although Malkin got Pittsburgh back in it with a power-play goal, it was a blown 5-on-3 advantage in the first period that really set the tone for the Penguins' ouster.
With Dallas Drake already off for charging, Kris Draper joined him in the box 27 seconds later for roughing. That set up a two-man power play for the second time in the series. Both came with the Penguins down by a goal, and both ended with Detroit's lead still intact.
Pittsburgh did record two shots on goal during this advantage unlike the third-period power play in its 2-1 home loss in Game 4 when the Penguins had none.