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Fleury backstops Penguins to Cup

NHL.com @NHL

DETROIT (AP) - In his first three losses of the Stanley Cup finals at Joe Louis Arena, Red Wings fans mercilessly taunted Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

"Fleur-eee! Fleur-eee!" they chanted.

That same word echoed through the Joe on Friday night - as Pens fans serenaded their hero while he skated around the ice as an NHL champion.

Pittsburgh fans surrounded the lower bowl of the arena following the Cup presentation, and Fleury raised the roof with his arms as they chanted his name.

The 24-year-old Fleury - the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft six years ago - stopped 23 of Detroit's 24 shots Friday, including a clutch save on Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom with a tick or two of the clock remaining.

"He's amazing. I got to buy him a bottle of champagne or something," Penguins defenseman Hal Gill said. "I owe him a few drinks. He stands on his head."

Fleury came up short for the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP to Evgeni Malkin, but he was in the conversation, winning all 16 of the team's postseason games.

He came close to playing all the minutes, too, but he was yanked from Pittsburgh's ugly 5-0 loss to Detroit in Game 5 six days earlier.

He bounced back successfully, helping the Penguins to a 2-1 home win Tuesday night before his heroics on Friday.

"He made big saves tonight," Red Wings forward Kirk Maltby said. "He stopped the puck when he had to."

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DETROIT PARTY CITY: The scene was chaotic after Pittsburgh's victory.

Players and coaches scurried around, trying to find their wives, girlfriends and kids.

When loved ones finally made their way out onto the Joe Louis Arena ice, the players skated toward them quickly, embracing and kissing them and taking pictures.

Defenseman Hal Gill conducted on-ice interviews with a child in each arm, one of which kept grabbing at reporters' recorders.

Coach Dan Bylsma rushed into the Zamboni entrance, where Penguins fans hung over the railings, arms outstretched. Bylsma slapped hands with a few, and one handed him a Penguins championship banner.

The coach unfurled it, ran it out onto the ice and raised it up for all to see.

A sizable contingent of Penguins fans were noticeable during the four Stanley Cup finals games in Detroit, and Friday was no exception.

Any time Red Wings fans started a "Let's go Red Wings!" chant, Penguins fans responded with a "Let's go Pens!"

"Everywhere we go, we seem to have a really great following of fans," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said.

A jubilant Max Talbot - who provided both of the Penguins' goals - summed it up best: "It's crazy right now and the best day of my life."

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THUMB DENIAL: A foursome of Detroit Red Wings came oh-so-close to winning a fifth Stanley Cup.

More than three years after the Pittsburgh Steelers won "one for the thumb" at Ford Field in Detroit, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby were unable to produce the hockey equivalent.

The quartet helped Detroit beat the Penguins in the finals a year ago and also won the Cup in 2002, 1998 and 1997.

"We've been on the other end of it a lot. To be on this end of it, come this far, and not be able to finish it off, especially here at home," Maltby said.

Several players helped the Red Wings win four championships, including Hall of Famer Gordie Howe, who won four Cups in the 1950s.

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STANLEY STAR POWER: An eclectic group of celebrities were at Joe Louis Arena.

Boxing great Muhammad Ali caught the game from a suite, while "Twilight" film actor Taylor Lautner had a seat in the lower bowl.

Ali, wearing a Red Wings jersey, rose out of his seat and waved to the standing crowd when he was introduced during a break in the first-period action. The players got into the act, too, looking up and slapping their sticks on the ice and the boards in honor of Ali.

"All My Children" star Thorsten Kaye also was on hand, rooting for the guys in red and white. Asked if he had ever been to the Joe, the diehard Wings fan was taken aback in mock horror.

"I've been here a hundred times. Of course. Jeez. Never for a Game 7 (though)," said the German-born, England-raised Kaye, who attended Wayne State in Detroit.

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ONE-TIMERS: After captain Sidney Crosby took the Stanley Cup for its initial spin, he gave it to Bill Guerin, a veteran the Penguins picked up in a trade deadline deal. The 38-year-old Guerin won his first Cup nearly 14 years ago with New Jersey. Veteran Sergei Gonchar, a first-time winner, was the third person to lift the Cup for Pittsburgh on Friday. ... At 21, Crosby became the youngest captain to hoist the Stanley Cup. Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky was 23 when he first won it. ... The Detroit and Pittsburgh hockey clubs weren't the only teams from the cities competing against each other Friday night. The Tigers and Pirates faced off in the opener of a weekend interleague series at PNC Park in Pittsburgh with Detroit taking a 3-1 decision.

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