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IN A NEAR-PERFECT GAME 6, PITTSBURGH PREVAILED 2-1 on the strength of its reliable third line, a bounce-back goaltender and an accidental goalie who established himself as The Piece on its team.
Scuderi is a stay-at-home (and heretofore) no-name defenseman who had been called Scuds by his teammates but who now, unwillingly, is known as The Piece. The New York native, one of the more thoughtful Penguins, told an interviewer that any winning team needs a lot of pieces to the puzzle and he happened to be "the piece." He meant to say "a piece," of course, but Staal, who with linemate Kennedy scored Pittsburgh's goals, seized upon the slip of the lip with extraordinary gusto. While The Piece might not rank among the great nicknames in sports, it shows a certain mental acuity.
So, for that matter, did Scuderi in the final 18 seconds with the Penguins gripping a one-goal lead by their fingertips. Scuderi stopped what appeared to be two shots in the blue paint, one with a shin guard, another with his toe, with the Red Wings looking as if they were going to go all Penn State on Pittsburgh and run in the tying goal.
"I'm more of a standup goalie, not a butterflyer," said the self-deprecating Scuderi. "They're outnumbering us in front of the net, and it's kinda tough to take one man. I tried to go down, and I guess [the puck] hit me. I'm pretty fortunate there. Like I said, just glad to help out any way I can."
Fleury goes by the more conventional nickname Flower, one that bloomed on a sticky night in Pittsburgh that was redolent of summer. He stopped 25 shots, including a Cleary breakaway with about 1:45 left.
"We all knew it was going to happen," Staal said of the save on Cleary. "Flower's an unbelievable goaltender. He does a great job bouncing back, and he was obviously there for us the whole game. You could tell everybody in this room was confident that he wasn't going to let anything in."
Staal had said his piece, with a small p.
THE PENGUINS PLAYED IT LIKE THE seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals.
In a performance as poised as it was (nearly) perfect, Pittsburgh won its first Cup in 17 years, dethroning the Red Wings 2-1 on the road in a Game 7 that was historic not merely for its excellence and passion but also because it most likely signaled the end of one glorious era and the beginning of another.