Winners of four
Cups in the past 11 seasons, the reigning Red Wings looked spent against a team
that was younger and more opportunistic. After Detroit yielded a goal in the
first 73 seconds of the second period, the structure and puck support that has
marked its superb teams of the past seemed to melt into puddles on the ice.
Crosby for almost all of the final 34:30—Franzen rode the Penguins' captain
heavily into the boards in the neutral zone during a race for the
puck—Pittsburgh either calmly blocked or cleared the flurry of point shots from
the Red Wings' defensemen, and Fleury (23 saves) never left a bad rebound.
Crosby appeared to seriously injure his left knee in the collision with the
Detroit winger and needed assistance to limp off the ice. As the Joe Louis
Arena crowd roared, Crosby headed in the direction of the dressing room, or
possibly Lourdes, because at the start of the third period, he was back on the
bench. (Such are the powers of one needle with freezing agents and a handful of
But Crosby, a
spectator for most of the third (he took his only shift at 9:35 of the period
and played just 32 seconds), and Malkin, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, had to
take a backseat to Talbot, who scored both Penguins goals. He netted the first
on a point-blank shot after Malkin intercepted a Stuart pass and rifled the
second to a fecund spot over Osgood's glove on a two-on-one after an
ill-advised pinch by Stuart midway through the period.
Fleury made his
only gaffe on a fluttering shot by Red Wings defenseman Ericsson from the right
point with 6:07 remaining, which set the stage for a wild finish. Niklas
Kronwall's deflected shot rang off the crossbar with 2:14 left—during a
stoppage in play, the goalie rubbed and then patted the iron appreciatively—but
Fleury would do the rest by himself in the final seconds of a desperate Detroit
surge. First he foiled Zetterberg with a pad save and then zipped across the
crease and used his right shoulder to block a gilt-edged chance by Nicklas
Lidstrom from the left face-off circle just before time expired.
If Crosby and
Malkin are the face and future of the Penguins, Talbot is the soul and the
funny bone. In the dressing room as on the ice, his passion and playfulness can
be invaluable assets.
Talbot and Fleury
go back a long way. They grew up about 45 minutes from each other, outside
Montreal. They played some peewee hockey together. They were opponents in the
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Talbot wormed his way onto Team Canada as a
role player because of his energy and ability to blend into a group and joined
Fleury, already a star, in the 2004 world junior tournament in Helsinki, the
year the goalie banked in the gold-medal-losing goal off the backside of his
own defenseman, Braydon Coburn.
Fleury is no
longer the bundle of nerves who was the first player selected in the 2003
draft, but Talbot is exactly the same, the straw who energetically stirs the
drink—as long as it accompanies a Happy Meal. Talbot would end up with four
goals in the finals, including the Stanley Cup winner, and Fleury would make
the Stanley Cup-winning save.
In Pittsburgh they
are the other dynamic duo.
But the leader of
this merry crew is inarguably Crosby. And with the core players of the Penguins
signed to long-term contracts—Malkin, Fleury, and Brooks Orpik in addition to
the captain—the franchise could have a lot to smile about in the next several