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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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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.

Even without 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 pain pills.)

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 years.

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