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Notebook: Young Pens Gain Experience

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

A 3-2 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 6 of the Stanley Final ended the Penguins’ season.

The decision had greater meaning than just a final score of a hockey game. It meant Wednesday night was the last time this Penguins group hit the ice together this season.

That is especially tough to fathom for the close-knit group of players.

“We have such a great group of guys and it’s so fun to play on this team,” Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “It’s really tough.”

Nevertheless, the young Penguins gained invaluable experience. Only six players had appeared in a Stanley Cup Final game before this season – Petr Sykora, Darryl Sydor, Gary Roberts, Georges Laraque, Sergei Gonchar and Ty Conklin. Sykora (2000, New Jersey), Roberts (1989, Calgary), and Sydor (Tampa Bay, 2004, Dallas, 1999) all have won the Stanley Cup.

“We’re proud of ourselves,” Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said. “Now, we have experience.”

In addition, Sidney Crosby is the youngest captain in the history to participate in the Stanley Cup Final. Jordan Staal is the first teenager (19) to play in the Final since Dainius Zubrus in 1997 vs. Detroit when he was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.

LATE SEASON

Game 6 marked the longest the Penguins have ever played in one season.

Before this season, the Penguins had played a game in June only twice. Game 4 of the 1992 Stanley Cup Final in Minnesota was played June 1 as was Game 6 of the 1996 Eastern Conference Final in Pittsburgh against Florida.

Also, this is the first series to go six games this postseason for the Penguins. The last time the Penguins were in a Game 6 in the playoffs was May 8, 2001, a 3-2 overtime victory vs. Buffalo in Pittsburgh.

HOME SWEET HOME

The Penguins finished their season with an impressive run at Mellon Arena. The team won nine of its last 11 games on home ice – including nine in a row, which is a franchise record for consecutive wins in one playoff year. The previous mark of six was set in 1992 as the Penguins won their last six home games of those playoffs en route to the Stanley Cup.

Overall this year, the Penguins won a franchise-record 17-straight home games and went 18-0-2 in their last 20 home contests before losing to the Red Wings in Games 4 and 6. Before those two setbacks, the Penguins’ last home loss came more three months ago – Feb. 24 against San Jose in a shootout, 2-1.

The team’s home sellout streak remained intact, however, and was extended to a franchise-best 67 games. That encompasses the last 13 regular-season games and two playoff dates in 2006-07 as well as 41 regular-season home games and 11 playoff battles this year.

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