DETROIT – Slide over Super Mario and make room on the Stanley Cup for a new batch of Pittsburgh Penguins.
Max Talbot scored two second-period goals, and the Penguins overcame the loss of captain Sidney Crosby and a whole lot of history to beat the defending champion Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night in Game 7 and win the Stanley Cup for the third time.
Instead of the Red Wings becoming the NHL's first repeat champion since they won consecutive titles in 1997 and 1998, this turned into a Penguins party for the first time since now-team owner Mario Lemieux captained them to championships in 1991 and '92.
The Penguins turned the tables on the Red Wings and captured the Cup on enemy ice, just as Detroit did in Pittsburgh last year. The Penguins are the first to win the title the year after losing in the finals since Edmonton did it 25 years against the New York Islanders — the last finals rematch before this one.
Evgeni Malkin, who led the playoffs with 36 points, earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP. He assisted on Talbot's first goal.
Crosby, just four years after being the No. 1 selection in the draft, became the youngest captain of a champion at 21 years old. He played just one shift after leaving the ice during the second period after taking a hard hit along the boards from Johan Franzen.
"It's unbelievable. It's the stuff you dream of as a kid. It's reality now," Crosby said. "We worked so hard. It's amazing to see how far we've come, and couldn't feel any better."
Marc-Andre Fleury was stellar in making 23 saves — none bigger than the two he made in the final seconds, the last as he dived across the crease and knocked away a shot by Niklas Lidstrom. He erased the memories of a 5-0 loss in Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena that put the Penguins on the brink of elimination. Pittsburgh returned home and gutted out a 2-1 win, behind Fleury's 25 saves, on Tuesday that forced a seventh game in Detroit.
Jonathan Ericsson made it more interesting and tense when he cut the Red Wings' deficit to 2-1 with 6:07 remaining. His shot from inside the blue line sailed past Fleury's glove and sent the fans into a frenzy.
Niklas Kronwall nearly tied it with 2:14 left, but his drive smacked the crossbar flush and caromed out of danger. The Red Wings pressed further in the Penguins end after goalie Chris Osgood was pulled, but the puck ended up behind the net as time ran out.
The nervous crowd came alive after listening to Penguins supporters chant Fleury's name during Pittsburgh's dominating second period.
Pittsburgh had gone 1-5 in Detroit in the past two final series before pulling this one out at the most clutch time. The Penguins' only other victory at "The Joe" was a triple overtime win in Game 5 last year that kept them alive. Talbot made it possible by scoring the tying goal with 35 seconds left in regulation.
The Penguins are the first team since the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Cup after trailing the series 3-2 and the first to take Game 7 on the road after the home team won the first six games since the 1971 Montreal Canadiens beat Chicago.
Crosby crumpled against the boards after he was hit and seemed to get his left leg caught. He glided to the bench hunched over and stayed bent at the waist as he was guided to the dressing room 5 1/2 minutes into the period.
He was limited to two shifts, totaling 2 minutes, 39 seconds of ice time in the frame, but his teammates doubled the lead while he was gone. Crosby made it back to the ice midway through the third period for the one shift.