PITTSBURGH - The Detroit Red Wings were so close to sipping champagne they could almost taste it.
Brian Rafalski and Valtteri Filppula gave Detroit a two-goal lead, Evgeni Malkin scored for the first time in the Stanley Cup finals and the Red Wings had a 2-1 lead entering the third period in Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
The Red Wings got a break on the game's first goal and by killing off a 5-on-3 power play, giving them a 1-0 lead after the first period.
Rafalski's shot went off Pittsburgh defenceman Hal Gill and past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, whose spectacular performance in the previous game extended the Stanley Cup finals for at least another game.
Detroit went ahead 2-0 midway through the second period when Filppula backhanded a rebound from the bottom of the right circle off Mikael Samuelsson's shot from the top of that circle.
When the Penguins needed Malkin most, he came through.
Malkin's slap shot off a Sidney Crosby pass on a power play with 4:34 left in the second period pulled Pittsburgh within one and was his first goal of the Stanley Cup finals.
He had 19 points in the first three rounds and 106 in the regular season, surpassing Crosby's total by 34 and trailing only Washington's Alexander Ovechkin.
If necessary, Game 7 will be Saturday night in Detroit.
Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs have rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the finals to win the Stanley Cup, pulling off the feat against Detroit after losing the first three games.
Darryl Sydor was called for interference in Game 6 and the Red Wings took advantage 5:03 into the game.
Pavel Datsyuk got to the puck along the boards, centred it to Henrik Zetterberg, who set up Rafalski perfectly in the left circle to score on Detroit's third shot of the game.
Rafalski was 35 seconds away from scoring the series-winning goal Monday night, but his goal was negated when Maxime Talbot scored to force the first of three overtimes and the Penguins staved off elimination. Fleury had a brilliant 55-save effort, including 13 stops in the first overtime and 11 more in the next two in the fifth-longest game in Stanley Cup finals history.
As Pittsburgh did to seal a loss in Game 4, it blew a chance to score with 5-on-3 advantage in Game 6.
Detroit's Dallas Drake and Kris Draper were called for penalties and the Penguins had two extra skaters for 1:33 midway through the first period. They tested Chris Osgood, but couldn't get a shot past him.
The Penguins failed to take advantage of another power play early in the second period and their superstar was stunned in the process.
Crosby carried the puck along the boards, lost his balance and got up just in time to get smashed against the boards by Brad Stuart.
Crosby slowly stood up, skated with his head down and his stick across his legs and barely had enough strength to lift a blade off the ice and step to the bench.
After taking his helmet off and taking a swig of water, Crosby was back on the ice and won his first faceoff. Later, he made a circle-to-circle pass to set up Malkin's goal.
Osgood stopped 15 shots, entering the third period, and Fleury turned away 16.