The Bear Cave

June 13, 2009 8:05 AM

Pittsburgh Penguins are 2009 Stanley Cup Champions!

Years from now, plenty of people will be able to tell you that the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins were loaded with young talent such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Although Fleury did play a major factor in leading his team to two vital victories in the final two tilts, it was another young star that made the difference on Friday. Maxime Talbot netted his seventh and eighth goals of the playoffs to give the Penguins a lead that they would not relinquish. After holding off Detroit's final barrage, Pittsburgh skated away with a 2-1 win and a Stanley Cup.

There was certainly plenty of desire in this seventh and deciding game at Joe Louis Arena, but in the early stages of the opening stanza, the teams appeared more content in not making costly mistakes. The Red Wings had the edge in control during the first half of the period, until Brad Stuart slashed Evgeni Malkin's stick to give the Penguins a power play. Pittsburgh came up empty, but the momentum was beginning to switch directions. The visitors went on to outshoot Detroit 10-6 in the first period, but the score remained tied when the buzzer sounded.

After a strong finish to the first, it didn't take the Penguins long to break the deadlock in the early stages of period two. Brooks Orpik skated up to the red line, before lofting the puck deep into enemy territory. The linsemen washed out a possible icing call, forcing Brad Stuart to chase it down behind his own net. As he curled around the back of Chris Osgood, Stuart attempted to bank a pass off of the boards to start a breakout. Evgeni Malkin had other ideas, deflecting the pass over to Maxime Talbot at the bottom of the right circle. Talbot made a quick fake with Niklas Kronwall in front, before sliding a shot through Osgood's legs.

Less than a minute after the opening goal, Detroit looked to have an opportunity for a quick answer. Jordan Staal was headed to the penalty box for hooking, which would have given the Red Wings a power play. However, before the puck could be touched up, Tomas Holmstrom grabbed the back of Hal Gill's jersey in the crease, earning himself a short rest in the sin bin.

A little more than five minutes into the period, the Penguins were given a serious reason to worry. Johan Franzen hit Sidney Crosby awkwardly into the boards. Although the hit was clean, Crosby went down on all fours, ultimately heading down the runway and into the locker room for repairs. The former MVP did return to action in the third, but was far from being 100%.

Hal Gill would be at the scene of the crime later in the period, when his holding penalty put the home team onto the man advantage. Pittsburgh was successful in killing the penalty, keeping the home fans at bay for the time being. The kill ended up being a big one, as the Penguins added to their lead less than two minutes later. Rob Scuderi cycled the puck around the boards in his own zone, connecting with Chris Kunitz on the left side near the blueline. With Brad Stuart pressuring, Kunitz simply tapped a pass ahead to Maxime Talbot in center ice, creating a 2-on-1 break. Despite having Tyler Kennedy on his right, Talbot kept the puck to himself, picking the top corner on Osgood's glove side. Niklas Kronwall was the helpless and unfortunate defenseman back on the play.

Henrik Zetterberg came close in the final seconds, but the Penguins carried their 2-0 lead into the third.

Early in the final frame, the Red Wings were given an opportunity to trim Pittsburgh's lead, when Mark Eaton was whistled for tripping. A few desperate shot blocks and a couple of large saves from Marc-Andre Fleury kept Detroit's score at zero.

Finally, with 6:07 left in regulation, the home team broke through. The Penguins were unable to clear the zone, allowing Mikael Samuelsson to put the puck deep for Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler. Hudler curled around the lower part of the offensive zone, before dishing back to Nicklas Lidstrom at the left point. With teammates setting up in the slot, Lidstrom opted to go across the blueline, setting up Jonathan Ericsson for a one-timer. Ericsson's shot wasn't completely crisp, but it was accurate, finding the back of the cage over Fleury's glove.

With the margin down to one, a classic finish was in store. Perhaps the closest chance came with a little over two minutes remaining. Niklas Kronwall got the Pittsburgh defense to bite on a fake, bringing the puck into the right circle. Kronwall then let a wrist shot go, squarely hitting the iron of the crossbar. Detroit was literally inches away from evening the score at two.

However, the most incredible part of the evening came with 6.5 seconds to go and a face-off to the left of Fleury. The Red Wings threw everything they had at the Penguins' net, forcing Fleury to make two huge stops. After what must have felt like an eternity, the horn sounded, giving the visitors the Stanley Cup.

After receving loads of criticism in earlier games, Marc-Andre Fleury saved his best for last, stopping 23 of 24 shots for his 16th victory of the playoffs. Chris Osgood was only tested 18 times in the final contest of the season, making 16 saves in a heartbreaking defeat.

Despite clutch performances from Marc-Andre Fleury and Maxime Talbot in game seven, the Conn Smythe Trophy was given to Evgeni Malkin. Malkin was the leading scorer in the playoffs, recording 14 goals, 22 assists, and 36 points in 24 games. Only Sidney Crosby and his 15 goals had the regular season's leading scorer beat.

For the third time in 15 occasions, the road team has won a game seven in the Stanley Cup Final. Congratulations to the 2009 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins!

Speaking of championships, congratulations also has to be given out to the Hershey Bears, who picked up a 4-1 win in game six to defeat the Manitoba Moose for the Calder Cup. Congratulations Hershey!

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