DETROIT (AP) - Max Talbot, a low-round draft pick on a team filled with stars, scored twice in the second period and the Pittsburgh Penguins - trying to shake off 38 years of NHL tradition - led the defending champion Detroit Red Wings 2-0 after two periods in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals on Friday night.
Pittsburgh played much of the period without captain Sidney Crosby, who was checked by Johan Franzen as they chased a loose puck in the neutral zone, landed on Franzen's back and appeared to injure his midsection or left leg. He was limply badly as he came off the ice with 5:25 gone, and it was uncertain if he would return, although Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told NBC Crosby would be back.
The Penguins, who kept the series alive by winning 2-1 in Game 6 on Tuesday, were trying to become the first team since Ken Dryden-led Montreal in 1971 to win a finals Game 7 on the road. Six teams have tried and failed since, and home teams were 12-2 all-time in such games.
Those Canadiens were also the last team to win two road Game 7s in the same postseason. The Penguins beat Washington 6-2 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, following a late-season comeback in which they went 18-3-4 under Bylsma to make the playoffs after being 10th in the conference in mid-February.
Talbot, who has a knack for scoring big goals, also scored twice when Pittsburgh won 4-2 in Game 4 at home to avoid going down 3-1 to the Red Wings, who were trying for their fifth Stanley Cup since 1997.
Marc-Andre Fleury, outplaying three-time Cup winner Chris Osgood in net in the biggest game of his career, made 17 saves through two periods to Osgood's 15.
After a tentative first period by both teams, Talbot scored the all-important first goal 1:13 into the second.
Talbot, an eighth-rounder on a team built around first-round draft picks Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Fleury, grabbed the puck near the right post after Malkin forced Brad Stuart to turn it over in the corner and deftly slipped a shot between Osgood's pads.
Seconds after Crosby was hurt, Detroit went on its first power play, resulting from a penalty to Hal Gill, but failed to convert.
Less than 2 minutes after Pittsburgh killed off the penalty, Chris Kunitz's pass started a 2-on-1 break with Detroit's Nicklas Kronwall in the middle. Talbot skated into the left circle, faked a pass and put a hard wrist shot under the crossbar to Osgood's glove side.
Talbot's eighth goal of the postseason stunned a packed Joe Louis Arena crowd that was clearly confident from the start that the Red Wings were about to become the first team in the four major pro sports to win a fifth title in the last dozen seasons.
Shots were 17-all after two periods following Pittsburgh's 10-6 edge in the first.
After a let's-be-careful opening 10 minutes in which neither side wanted to risk a mistake that might yield a momentum-shifting goal, Pittsburgh drew the first power play when Stuart's slash knocked the stick out of Malkin's hands at 11:24.
The Penguins controlled the puck for nearly a continuous minute to begin the power play and the Red Wings were visibly tiring as they couldn't make a line change, but Pittsburgh came up empty. The Penguins are 1-for-5 on the power play in Detroit.
In a similar scenario in Game 5, the Penguins controlled the play for the first 8 minutes and had the first power play, but couldn't score and the Red Wings dominated the rest of the way, winning 5-0.
There was one big scare for Pittsburgh in the first. Fleury was playing a dump-in by Franzen from the neutral zone when the puck took an odd hop, forcing the goalie to make a tentative save - much like a catcher trying to control a knuckleball.
Detroit is trying to match what the 2003 New Jersey Devils did against Anaheim by winning all four home games and the series despite going 0-3 on the road. Detroit's Mike Babcock was the Ducks' coach at the time, and Bylsma was one of his players.
Despite the NHL's unwritten rule that home teams win finals Game 7, the Penguins were trying to lean on some Game 7 history that's favorable to Pittsburgh. They were 4-0 in road Game 7s, though none were in the finals, and the last team to win a Game 7 on the road in the NHL or NBA finals or the World Series was the 1979 Pirates in Baltimore. Home teams in the three sports are 18-0 since then.
For all the Red Wings' playoff tradition - they have far more Stanley Cup banners, 11, than some teams have playoff appearances - this was their first Game 7 since 1964. None of the four finals won by Detroit since 1997 went longer than the six games they needed to eliminate Pittsburgh last season.
Game 7s often are low scoring, with the last three ending 3-1 (Carolina over Edmonton, 2007), 2-1 (Tampa Bay over Calgary, 2004) and 3-0 (New Jersey over Anaheim, 2003).