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One more Cup just not in cards for Wings

by Larry Wigge
DETROIT -- Defending the Stanley Cup is even harder than most Red Wings fans thought.

That became readily apparent after Detroit won the first two games of this year's Stanley Cup Final at home, but lost four of the next five to surrender the Cup to the Pittsburgh Penguins following a 2-1 setback in Game 7 Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Maybe that's why winning back-to-back Cups has only been done twice since 1988 -- by the Penguins in 1991 and '92 and by the Red Wings in 1997 and '98. How ironic.

"It's hard coming up short one game and you're so close to the Stanley Cup," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "It especially hurts when you're this close and you're playing at home."

The only other times in NHL history that a Game 7 was lost at home were 1945, when the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Red Wings in Detroit, and 1971, when the Montreal Canadiens beat the Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium.

"We did everything but score in the third period of the last two games. We had plenty of chances, but we couldn't put it in," said Kirk Maltby, who together with Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom and Darren McCarty were vying for their fifth Stanley Cup rings since 1997. "It was almost a flashback to last year. In the last seconds, Nick had a chance to tie it up and it just missed."

Just like last year, when Marian Hossa's scoring opportunity for the Pens skidded just wide of the net and the Red Wings won Game 6 in Pittsburgh, 3-2.

This time, with 6.5 seconds remaining, a rebound came to Lidstrom after the Wings won an offensive-zone faceoff, and he seemed in prime position to net the tying goal.

"The puck kind of squirted out to me, their goalie just dove across and I hit him right in the chest," Lidstrom said, shaking his head.

There were no excuses in the Red Wings' dressing room.

"Give them credit," Lidstrom said. "We made a couple of unfortunate errors and they put them in the net."

The two goals by light-scoring Maxime Talbot were stinging, especially when defenseman Jonathan Ericsson scored six minutes into the third period to give the Red Wings a chance.

"I'm not going to stand here and make excuses," goaltender Chris Osgood said. "It's difficult to win. People take it for granted."

"I thought we looked out of gas pretty much all series," coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we competed. And I thought we tried. But I never thought we got to the level we'd have liked to."

"It's hard coming up short one game and you're so close to the Stanley Cup. It especially hurts when you're this close and you're playing at home."  -- Nicklas Lidstrom
Said Lidstrom: "It's hard to see that we can't get more than a goal in the game. When the play really matters, we really have to score.

"They played really well without the puck. I thought they defended really well. We were pressing hard, we had some chances, but we couldn't get the puck in."

But the Red Wings have nothing to be ashamed of. They won the Central Division for the eighth-consecutive season and topped 100 points in the standings for the ninth-straight season. And they signed Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen to long-term contracts.

They say you always learn something from losing.

"I'm not sure exactly what that is," said defenseman Brian Rafalski. "We've done some good things. Those good things? I guess we should bottle them up, store them and use them down the road."

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