Henrik Zetterberg wins Conn Smythe as playoff MVP
Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg locked up the Conn Smythe Trophy as top playoff performer with a team-high 27 points — and one remarkable penalty kill.
"It has been unbelievable," he told CBC Sports, moments after winning the trophy — and the first Stanley Cup of his five-year NHL career.
"It feels pretty good. It has been a long season.
"When we lost [4-3 in triple overtime on Monday] in Joe Louis, it was devastating. We found a way to battle back.
"It is just a great feeeling. There's some great names on it."
Zetterberg, 27, had the winning goal and one assist in Wednesday's series-clinching 3-2 triumph at Mellon Arena.
But he secured the Conn Smythe with one memorable shift earlier in the series.
With Detroit clinging to a 2-1 lead late in Game 4 and needing to kill off a lengthy 5-on-3 power play, Zetterberg tied up Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby to the left of the net, holding down Crosby's stick with his own and preventing him from scoring the tying goal.
Zetterberg later regained control of the puck and played keepaway in the Pittsburgh zone, knocking a good 15 seconds off the clock before whisking a backhand shot just wide of the net.
It was a critical penalty kill for the Red Wings, who held on to win 2-1, and one of defining moments in the Stanley Cup final.
"He has been so stellar, both on offence and defence," said Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, the only other European named the most valuable player in the playoffs (2002).
"He is so determined," Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. "Anything he does, he does it full on.
"He is one of the hardest working guys on our team and other guys follow that, they look up to that. We're blessed to have him on our team."
Zetterberg, who led the Red Wings with 43 goals this season, skates on Detroit's No. 1 line with Pavel Datsyuk, who topped the team with 97 points (five more than Zetterberg).
But both are finalists for the Selke Trophy as top defensive forward at the NHL Awards on June 12 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
"Not a surprise to me," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "He [Zetterberg] is just a conscientious, good, two-way player. So is Datsyuk."
Zetterberg faced Pittsburgh's best in the final in Crosby, who matched him with 27 points.
"He is so good at anticipating plays, reading where the puck is going to go," Lidstrom said of Zetterberg. "It makes it tougher for them to find the passing lanes and find someone open."
Lidstrom sets NHL history
Lidstrom, a five-time Norris Trophy winner as top defenceman, became the first European-born captain to win the Stanley Cup.
"It is something I'm very proud of," he said. "I have been over here for a long time.
"I watched Steve Yzerman win it as our captain and I'm very proud to be captain of the Detroit Red Wings and to win the Stanley Cup again."
"There has been a lot of talk about that throughout the years," Zetterberg said. "It is great to see him lifting the Cup and with the 'C' on his chest.
"It means so much for the team and the organization. He is bringing it every night, he is probably our best player every night and I'm really happy for him."
Lidstrom, 38, has won four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, including six years ago, when he was the first European to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
This spring, he eclipsed a pair of Yzerman's franchise records by competing in the post-season for the 16th consecutive season and in his 197th playoff game.
Then, he broke Jari Kurri's NHL record for Europeans with his 201st playoff game.
"We had a great regular season and we were able to carry that through into the playoffs," said Lidstrom, who has played 213 playoff games.
"The team really responded well to the adversity we faced during the run."
Lidstrom led all NHL defencemen with 70 points and a plus-40 rating in 76 games this season, and is favoured to win a sixth Norris Trophy as the league's top defenceman.
With files from the Associated Press