- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2009

PITTSBURGH | For the second consecutive year, the Stanley Cup was in Mellon Arena and the Detroit Red Wings were positioned to celebrate with it. But this time around, their opponent has proved to be a bit pluckier.

It wasn’t the stars for the Pittsburgh Penguins but rather the supporting cast and a pair of key penalty kills in the final period that helped them to a 2-1 victory Tuesday night in Game 6 of the Cup finals at sold-out Mellon Arena.

The scene shifts back to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for Game 7 on Friday night with the home team having won the first six games of the series.

“It is an unbelievable opportunity,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “We weren’t thinking about last year at all, but we found a way to survive. It is going to be a great challenge, and they’re great at home, but we’ve got to battle and find a way.”

Jordan Staal put the Penguins in front 51 seconds in the second period. He chipped the puck past a Red Wings defender to himself along the right wall, which set in motion a two-on-one for Pittsburgh. Instead of passing to Matt Cooke, Staal took a shot and then flipped the rebound past Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood for his second goal of the series and fourth of the postseason.

“Going through this - there is no better feeling,” Staal said. “It is always fun to have these must-win games, and obviously the Wings are so tough - it makes it real special.”

Tyler Kennedy gave Pittsburgh a two-tally advantage 5:35 into the final period. Max Talbot cycled the puck to Kennedy behind the Detroit goal, and after Osgood stopped his stuff attempt, Kennedy was able to tuck a shot under the left arm of the netminder for his fifth of this postseason.

Kris Draper cut the lead in half less than three minutes later with his first of this postseason. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson took a slap shot from the left point, and Draper was there to bang home the rebound at 8:01.

Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury rebounded from a forgettable night in Game 5 with a sparkling performance. He made 25 saves, including one on a breakaway by Dan Cleary with less than two minutes remaining. This came three days after the 24-year-old netminder was pulled in the second period for yielding five tallies on only 21 shots.

“We all knew that was going to happen,” Staal said. “[Fleury], he’s an unbelievable goaltender. He was obviously there for us throughout the whole game. You could tell everyone in this room was confident in him.”

If it weren’t for the fantastic play of Osgood in the opening 25 minutes, the Penguins might have opened a big lead. Pittsburgh had 21 of the first 28 shots on net, but Osgood kept his team within a goal.

The Penguins will try to become the third team in NHL history to win Game 7 on the road after needing to win Game 6 to stave off elimination and the first to do so since Montreal won in Chicago in 1971. Pittsburgh has secured the Cup twice in the franchise’s history (1991 and 1992), and both times the Penguins celebrated away from Mellon Arena.

Detroit has won the Cup in four of the past 11 seasons, but this is the first time the Red Wings have been pushed to a seventh game in that span. It will also be the fourth time in the past six NHL seasons that there will be a winner-take-all contest in the championship round.

The Red Wings have been dominant at Joe Louis Arena during this postseason. Detroit is 11-1 in its red sweaters and has won eight straight at home dating back to the second round against Anaheim. In this series alone, the Red Wings have outscored the Penguins 11-2 in three home victories.

“The best thing I can tell them is it’s just about winning the game - it is not about trying not to lose,” said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, who played in Game 7 of the 2003 finals for Anaheim under Mike Babcock, now Detroit’s coach. “Don’t sit back and wait for a mistake - you don’t want to treat the game any differently than any other game.”

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