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THE 2009 STANLEY CUP FINALS
Michael Farber
June 18, 2009
PITTSBURGH PUSHED DETROIT TO THE BRINK TO WIN THE CUP
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June 18, 2009

The 2009 Stanley Cup Finals

PITTSBURGH PUSHED DETROIT TO THE BRINK TO WIN THE CUP

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Crosby. Although his level of competitiveness has never flagged, the Pittsburgh captain's goal breakthrough was welcome if for no other reason than that he wouldn't have to answer any more questions about it. He would lead the playoffs with 15 goals because he pays the price, this time from teammate Kris Letang, who jumped Crosby and drove him to the ice in celebration. Crosby's goal was a gimme, not a play of supreme skill like the deft touch pass he made to set up Tyler Kennedy for the Penguins' fourth goal, their third in 5:37. Detroit coach Mike Babcock didn't chase the Zetterberg versus Crosby matchup, but it is obvious the Red Wings missed Pavel Datsyuk, who took the warmup but didn't play. Two stars (Malkin and Crosby) versus one (Zetterberg) no longer looked like a fair fight.

Jordan Staal. The other Penguins center had played like an innocent bystander through most of the finals, but a desultory series can be jump-started in an eyeblink, or roughly the time Staal needed to power past defenseman Brian Rafalski on a Pittsburgh penalty kill with Detroit leading 2-1. Rafalski is an elite defenseman. And he had a perfect angle to cut off the center. But Staal found an extra gear and muscled past him, rapping a puck through Osgood's pads. The goal, Staal's first in 10 games against Detroit in two finals, "sucked the life out of us," Babcock said.

But it breathed life back into the series.

GAME 5
June 6, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
Red Wings 5, Penguins 0

THE MORAL OF THE STORY: IF YOU give the Detroit Red Wings a foot, they will take a game.

After missing seven consecutive playoff matches with an injured foot, Datsyuk returned for Game 5. If this had been a regular-season game there was no chance his gifted two-way forward would have been in the lineup, Babcock said, but with the Stanley Cup in the balance there was no time to delay his entry. As Babcock noted, you can heal all summer.

DAT'S MORE LIKE IT, the Detroit Free Press headline read the following morning, and who could argue? Two days after playing like zombies and looking too old to win the franchise's 12th Stanley Cup, the revitalized Red Wings fashioned a resounding 5-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who suddenly appeared too young to win the Cup.

Datsyuk, who played mostly with Zetterberg against Crosby's line, was superb, announcing his presence with a check that knocked Malkin on his assets behind the net before setting up Dan Cleary for the opening goal moments later. Datsyuk also had the first assist on a power-play goal during a commanding second period in which the Red Wings pumped four past Fleury, who spent the rest of the evening watching glumly on the bench.

Pittsburgh didn't react well to humiliation. Late in the second period, with everything over except the accounting, Crosby slashed Zetterberg on the shin. Twenty seconds later Maxime Talbot took a page out of the Gary Roberts Handbook of Playoff Etiquette by slashing Datsyuk's bum foot. Talbot later averred he was going after the puck, but the Penguins' frustration was surely showing.

GAME 6
June 9, Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh
Penguins 2, Red Wings 1

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