The sea of red shirts in the Joe Louis Arena provided the pounding heartbeats which could be heard on television screens across the hockey world. There are few Stanley Cup Final game 7s, and the home team had historically won 12 of 14, including the last six. The 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins broke that streak when they beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 to claim the Penguins first Stanley Cup in 27 years and the first for captain Sidney Crosby.
Crosby is now the youngest captain to win the Cup.
(The story was written on April 8, 2020, as the Penguins TV broadcast partner, AT&T sports aired the classic Penguins game as part of the coronavirus COVID-19) season pause and Pittsburgh Hockey Now is also following along in the sport’s absence)
The 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins core includes the hockey equivalent of toddlers. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal are the rock-solid centers. This concluded Crosby’s fourth season. It was the third season for Malkin and Staal. The group rallied to win Game 6, unlike they did one year ago when Detroit lifted the Stanley Cup on Pittsburgh ice.
But the Penguins stars weren’t the ones who lit the lamp. Max Talbot scored a pair of goals, including a controversial marker in the opening minutes of the second period, and 2003 first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury outplayed Detroit netminder Chris Osgood.
Talbot’s first goal elicited controversy as TV replays showed Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik may not have reached the red line when he dumped the puck into the Detroit zone. Penguins fans may say that’s a play which occurs many times without a call. Detroit fans may be salty, for a while.
Sidney Crosby suffered a lower body injury in the second period and played less than 10 mintues.
Xs and Os
In the first period, the Penguins puckered tight. The older, slower Detroit Red Wings streaked past the Penguins for loose pucks. The heady Detroit head coach Mike Babcock long ago diagnosed the Penguins breakouts and implored his players to step forward in disruptive aggression.
Detroit controlled the territory and was the aggressor for most of the first 20 minutes. Detroit slipped trailers behind the Penguins over-amped, over-committing defense. The Penguins top pairing of Brooks Orpik and Sergei Gonchar were guilty a few times, including on the pressure-packed first shift of the game.
Dan Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg had glorious chances. Fleury made glorious saves.
In the second period, the Penguins settled their nerves. The early goal by Talbot undoubtedly helped. The Penguins younger legs looked faster, and the Penguins dump-ins were no longer automatic change of possessions. The Penguins got pucks first. They pressured the increasingly shaky Detroit defense, including Brad Stuart, from whom Malkin stole the puck to set up Talbot’s first goal.
Otherwise, there were no magic wrinkles. There was no great chalkboard hijinx. After 13 games of Stanley Cup Final war over two seasons, these teams knew each other. The team, which stayed in sync, brought help back to the defensive zone and kept the puck on their stick controlled the game.
Sometimes, it is that simple. The Penguins defenders were more conscious of Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom slipping to the backside for offensive chances; Malkin dove to break up a sure Lidstrom goal late in the second period.
With history within reach and the game on the line, Detroit attacked in the third period. The Penguins assumed a defensive posture in which far too few of their skates crossed the defensive blue line.
Detroit won the walls and controlled the territory as the Penguins packed the middle tighter than a beach on Springbreak. Detroit did everything but tie the game, including when Nicklas Kronwall hit the crossbar with two minutes remaining.
These 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins poked and guarded. They stopped skating in the final 20 minutes. Missing captain Sidney Crosby who watched in pain from the bench, the Penguins tried to nurse a two-goal lead. They did, barely, as FLeury’s final diving stop on Lidstrom preserved the Penguins organization’s third Stanley Cup.
Evgeni Malkin won the Conn Smythe trophy.
Pittsburgh Report Card:
Max Talbot: A+
Holy hero performance. Talbot scored his seventh and eighth goals of the playoffs. His two-on-one snipe over Osgood for the game-winning goal was a thing of beauty. Talbott also aggressively defended. He’ll be remembered in Pittsburgh for a long, long time.
Marc-Andre Fleury: A+
From the brilliant saves on Helm and Zetterberg in the first period to the final save on Lidstrom, Fleury controlled every rebound. He was tall and in command of his crease. It was one of Fleury’s best performances. Detroit didn’t get any easy chances from Fleury rebounds. Fleury’s glove hand was sharp, too.
Brooks Orpik-Sergei Gonchar: B
The top pair shut down Detroit, but there were victimized for a handful of Grade-A chances, too. There weren’t as stellar as they’ve been. Overall, the pair did what they had to do.
Gonchar played more than 24 minutes, and Orpik provided another bruising 21 minutes.
Tyler Kenned-Jordan Staal-matt Cooke: A+
Kennedy and Staal were the jump start to the Penguins offense. As the Penguins struggled to find their legs in the first period, it was Kennedy who stormed the Detroit zone for a good scoring chance. Then Kennedy set up Staal for another one.
The line had the best chances of the game for the Penguins, at least the shots which didn’t go in the net.
Chris Kunitz: B
Kunitz grinding wall game was on full display. He was gritty in the defensive zone, including when he won the puck battle on the wall and sprung Talbot for the game-winning goal.
Kunitz had only one shot on goal in nearly 16 minutes.