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Joy in Hockeytown

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

PITTSBURGH | Lord Stanley's cup is returning to Hockeytown.

The Detroit Red Wings built a two-goal lead and won the 2007-08 NHL championship thanks to a fluky tally from Conn Smythe Trophy winner Henrik Zetterberg in a 3-2 victory last night in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Mellon Arena. It is the 11th time the franchise has captured the Cup and fourth time in the past 12 years.

After coming within 34.3 seconds of clinching the title on home ice two days prior, the Red Wings left little doubt. Goaltender Chris Osgood made 20 saves and allowed only 10 goals in the six games of the series. Detroit's suffocating defense was a theme throughout the series, and the Red Wings punctuated the effort by allowing only six shots in the final period.

"This feels pretty good," Zetterberg said as he sat with the Conn Smythe at his side. "It has been a long way, a long season. Especially after we lost [Monday] night at Joe Louis [Arena] - it was devastating. But we found a way to battle back, and it is just a great feeling."

For the first time since Game 2, the Red Wings notched the first goal of the game. Penguins defenseman Darryl Sydor went to the penalty box 4:17 into the opening period for interference, and Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski capitalized 46 seconds later.

After a pair of failed clearing attempts by Penguins rearguard Rob Scuderi, Pavel Datsyuk sent the puck to Zetterberg near the right faceoff circle. He backhanded a pass to Rafalski near the left point, and after the defenseman took a second to settle the puck, he put it through a crowd for his fourth goal of the playoffs.

The Penguins had a chance to answer right back with their second lengthy 5-on-3 of the series. For the second time, Pittsburgh didn't convert with the two-man advantage.

Valtteri Filppula made it a 2-0 advantage for Detroit 8:07 into the second period. Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who turned away 55 shots in the previous game, stopped Mikael Samuelsson's wrist shot from near the right point, but Filppula was able to get just enough on his backhanded rebound attempt to squeeze it through the goalie's legs.

It was Filppula's fifth of the playoffs and second of the series to go along with his highlight-reel tally in Game 2.

Evgeni Malkin recorded his first point of the series with the primary assist on the game-winner in Game 5, and the sophomore superstar potted his first goal of the final late in the second period. With Datsyuk in the box for interference, the Penguins' extra-man attack converted.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby found Malkin creeping in from the left point, and his blast beat Osgood to the short side. Malkin had just one goal and three points in his previous eight games after finishing the regular season second to Washington's Alex Ovechkin with 106 points and after being a dominant player in the early stages of these playoffs.

Zetterberg restored the two-goal advantage 7:36 into the third period with an unusual goal. Fleury stopped his wrist shot, but the puck did not settle between the goalie's legs as he thought. Instead it sat behind him as Zetterberg and Pittsburgh's two defensemen converged on the goal crease.

Fleury realized he didn't have it and fell backward to try and cover the puck, but he ended up knocking it into the net instead. It was Zetterberg's 13th goal of these playoffs, which tied teammate Johan Franzen for most in the league. His 27 points were tied with Crosby for most in the playoffs.

"We've come a long way [this year], but that doesn't make this any easier," a teary-eyed Crosby said.

Sergei Gonchar put a slap shot through traffic with 1:27 remaining and the Penguins on the power play and Fleury on the bench for an extra attacker, and Pittsburgh nearly gained the equalizer with a flurry before the final buzzer, but it would remain the Red Wings' night.

"I'm almost speechless right now because it is tough," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "To come that close, it is really tough."

This is the fourth championship for five members of the Red Wings, but it is also the first Cup win for 39-year-old Dallas Drake, who has more than 1,000 games of NHL experience. It is also the first title for Detroit since Datsyuk and Zetterberg replaced Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov as the prominent forwards on the roster.

The constant through both eras has been defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who became the first European captain to lead his team to the Cup. Lidstrom's four Cup rings and five Norris trophies (likely to be six in a week) have cemented his place among the sport's legends at his position.

"There has been a lot of talk of that this year, and it was just great to see him lift the Cup," Zetterberg said. "He means so much to this team."