The Penguins defied critics again as they staved off elimination with a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at the Mellon Arena on Tuesday night to force a winner-takes-all Game 7 in the Motor City on Friday night.
It started with a strong first period from Pittsburgh. The period ended scoreless but the Penguins outshot, 12-3, and outhit, 11-8, Detroit in the frame.
“I thought we were pretty calm and pretty focused before the game,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “Right at the opening faceoff it looked like the guys were really ready to take it to them.”
The Penguins kept up their dominant play into the second period and were rewarded with a goal 51 seconds into the frame.Jordan Staal
poked the puck away from Valtteri Filppula along the far boards and skated into Detroit’s end on a two-on-one with Matt Cooke
. Staal wristed an initial shot that was blocked but he scooped up his own rebound and flicked it past Chris Osgood for the opening tally.
“It’s always nice to get that first one, especially here in this building,” Staal said. “I got a chip off the wall, I took a step on their defense and took it down. I shot short side and it ended up coming right back to me and I just buried it.”
The Penguins continued to dominate through the second period outshooting Detroit, 24-12, through the first two periods.
With a 1-0 lead going into the third period, Detroit upped its intensity but it wasn’t enough to stop the determined Penguins, who tallied a second goal at the 5:35 mark of the third period to grab a 2-0 lead. The goal was netted by Tyler Kennedy
who wrapped around the net and flipped a shot across the crease and over the glove of Osgood.
“Max (Talbot) had two guys (on him) and I called for it behind the net,” Kennedy explained. “I walked around and just kind of banged it in. I kept whacking at it and it went in.”
Detroit eventually answered with a goal from Chris Draper at the 8:01 mark but it wasn’t enough to quiet the resilient Penguins, who tied the series at 3-3 and forced a decisive Game 7.
“You have to be proud,” Talbot said. “We did everything we could tonight. What we did tonight was give ourselves a chance to play Game 7 for the Stanley Cup in a one-game contest. This is great.”Fleury Shines BrightMarc-Andre Fleury
proved, yet again, just how capable he is between the pipes by turning aside 25 shots to help the Penguins gain a monumental victory.
The young francophone saved the game for Pittsburgh with 1:46 left on the clock and Dan Cleary on a breakaway as the Penguins were trying to protect a one-goal lead.
“I knew that could be a turning point if I could make the save,” Fleury said. “At first I was kind of thinking about pokechecking, but I tried to be patient and wait for him to make the first move.”
The entire arena held its breath as Cleary snapped off a shot that looked like it was assured to tie the game, however, Fleury stretched out his glove and snagged the puck with the poise of an MLB All Star. The save was dazzling and brought back memories of a similar save that Fleury made on Alex Ovechkin at a pivotal moment in Game 7 of the semifinal series.
“I was on the edge of my seat, but I have a lot of faith in ‘Flower’ and he made a great stop,” Kennedy said.
Fleury received criticism after allowing five goals in Game 5 in Detroit, but his teammates all knew that he would bounce back with a strong game.
“Nothing was really said to Fleury before the game,” Scuderi explained. “He is a really calm kid, he has a good head on his shoulders. He is going to have some bad games but he has always bounces back for us. He had a tough one last game but we had no doubt that he was going to bounce back for us and play another good game for us.”
“I think I've learned throughout my years that it doesn't matter how many goals you give up in a game,” Fleury said. “I think it matters if you lose, you lose. So it doesn't matter if I give one or five. So I try to forget about it. Put it in the back, and next day come to the rink with a smile on, try to be positive and confident for tonight's game.”Puzzle-Me Rob
Rob Scuderi proved to be the missing piece in the Penguins' puzzle in Game 6 as he played a solid defensive game to help his squad to victory.
“Rob Scuderi doesn't go unnoticed on our team,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He gets more notoriety for doing the job he's done in the playoffs against guys like Ovechkin and Eric Staal. But he's a steady defender, he dives in front of a puck. He'll pay the price in the corners to get a puck out or make a play defensively.”
Twice Scuderi swept loose pucks out of the crease before Detroit could convert them into goals, including one chance just moments after Detroit scored its first goal in the third period.
The Red Wings had a chance to tie the score with a scrum in front of the Penguins net, but Scuderi was there to sweep the puck out of harms way. Overall he tallied four blocked shots in the game, one assist and he registered a plus-2 rating.
“Scuderi is unbelievable with blocking and getting in front of pucks,” Staal explained. “He does a great job battling. Scudsy is 'the piece', that’s all I’m going to say.”
While Scuderi really did stand tall in the Penguins' Game 6 victory, after the game Staal and Scuderi explained a team inside joke about Scuderi being the Penguins missing puzzle piece.
“I made a pretty brutal quote a couple of days ago,” Scuderi explained. “I was supposed to say, ‘a piece to the puzzle,’ and instead I said ‘the piece to the puzzle.”
Scuderi though just laughed off the matter.
“So, it’s not Sid (Crosby), it’s not Geno (Malkin), apparently it’s me,” he joked. “It was a pretty brutal quote by me, but it was a misquote, not on purpose. Those guys play a way bigger role on this team. I just want to clear that up right now.”
As adamant as Scuderi was that he is not the piece the Penguins needed, he certainly proved otherwise with his spectacular performance in the game.