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Fleury Magnificent as Penguins Take Stanley Cup

Nick PoustCorrespondent IIJune 13, 2009

DETROIT - JUNE 12:   Maxime Talbot #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save against the Detroit Red Wings during Game Seven of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on June 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The clock ticked under ten seconds, the Detroit Red Wings, desperate to prolong their season, were in possession, needing a goal to tie. The first shot was fired by Nicklas Lidstrom, and blocked by Pittsburgh Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

The puck ricocheted back to Lidstrom and the net was wide open for a split second, so, with no time to lose, he rocketed the puck towards the goal. The opening closed with the puck in mid-flight, as Fleury dove and blocked the shot with his body. The puck trickled aimlessly near the right sideline. Two seconds remained, then one second, then the buzzer sounded.

The red-clad arena went silent.

All that could be heard was the jubilant screams of the Penguins. Those on the bench leaped onto the ice and rushed their fellow teammates. A pile formed near the goalie’s net, where Fleury had capped his magnificently dominant night seconds earlier. For the first time since Mario Lemieux’s 1992 team, they had won the Stanley Cup Finals.

Pittsburgh, given virtually no chance to defeat defending champion Detroit, proved the doubters wrong. In a hostile environment against a more experienced team, the Penguins showed no fear. They controlled the puck for the majority of the first two periods, and struck twice, beating the famed Chris Osgood. Maxime Talbot did the honors both times.

Detroit tried to clear the puck, but it ricocheted off the skate of Evgeni Malkin and right to Talbot, who in stride, laced a shot between Osgood’s legs, through only millimeters of daylight. This is perhaps the toughest sport to play, and one of full of strange bounces and luck. The 25-year-old capitalized on the mistake, and was able, in a split second, to catch one of the best goalies in history off guard.

Though the shots on goal were even at 17 apiece over the first two periods, the puck spent a majority of the time in Pittsburgh’s possession. Their passing was brilliant, which flustered Osgood so much that he eventually cracked. He could do nothing about Talbot’s second goal. He was defenseless. The Penguins' center corralled the puck on a breakaway, and saw only Osgood in between him and the net.

He pulled up and rocketed the puck past Osgood’s humongous mitt, clobbering the shot into the top-right corner. He fell to his knees in jubilation, while Detroit dejectedly wandered around the rink, knowing their chances for a repeat may have slipped through their grasp.

The Red Wings were extremely aggressive for the remainder of the second period, nailing shots constantly, only to watch each ricochet off Fleury or one of his teammates. The crowd moaned and groaned, frustrated at their team’s inability to score. It wasn’t so much Detroit’s offense, but Fleury and his fellow Penguins' play on defense. Still, shots were firing at Fleury in every which direction, so as Osgood showed earlier, it only takes a minuscule mistake for a goal to score.

Fleury didn’t make a mistake midway through the third period, Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson just didn’t give him time to react. Like Talbot, Ericsson rifled the puck into the net before the goalie could blink, cutting the deficit in half. Four minutes later, it appeared they would tie the game, but the Hockey Gods were smiling upon the underdogs.

Niklas Kronwall, from a good 30 feet out, nailed a shot past Fleury. Unfortunately for Detroit, Kronwall hit it a inch too high, as the puck ricocheted hard off the crossbar. The crowd, assuming a goal was scored, went ballistic, only to see play resume. In their friendly confines and favored, but this was not their night.

Pittsburgh played a majority of the third period on the defensive. They were trying not to lose instead of trying to put Game Seven away with a third goal. They would hit the puck into Detroit’s zone, but refused to do anything with it. Their strategy was to keep the puck as far from their end as possible, but this wouldn’t last.

The Red Wings fought until the end, and struck fear into the eyes of every Penguin and their fans, but Fleury made sure their skittish strategy wouldn’t backfire, finishing off a Game Seven victory in fitting fashion.

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