Determined not to let hockey history repeat itself, the Pittsburgh Penguins clipped the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 at Mellon Arena on Tuesday and forced a seventh and deciding game in the Stanley Cup final.
Forced to watch the Red Wings hoist the Stanley Cup in front of their Pittsburgh faithful last spring, the Penguins refused to suffer the same indignity that befell the Boston Bruins in 1977 and 1978 — the Montreal Canadiens clinching back-to-back Stanley Cups at the Boston Garden.
Instead, Pittsburgh tied the best-of-seven series 3-3 and forced Game 7 at Detroit on Friday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET).
"We weren't thinking about last year at all," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "But we found a way to survive and now it is anyone's game.
"It is going to be a great challenge. But it is an unbelievable opportunity."
Remarkably, Pittsburgh prevailed without a point from either Crosby or Evgeni Malkin for the first time in 30 post-season victories dating back to 2007.
"When your team plays well enough long enough and you put yourself in those positions, different guys are going to be the heroes," Penguins rookie head coach Dan Bylsma said.
"We rely on each other and teams don't get to this point without each guy stepping out and stepping up in their own way," Crosby explained. "Time after time, I think our team has proven that we're a true team and everyone is contributing.
"Tight games like this, there is not going to be a lot of chances. But when there is, you know, you rely on the guy next to you to execute.
"It is not going to be the same guy every night. But that is why we have had success."
Tyler Kennedy led the Penguins with one goal and one assist, and Jordan Staal opened the scoring early in the second period.
"We have a chance and that is what we were working for," Kennedy said. "Just to get a chance."
"T.K., Staalsy, they have come up with some big goals and those role players get big plays and we have depended on them all season long," Crosby pointed out.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who yielded five goals on 21 shots before being yanked in Game 5, finished with 26 saves, including a heart-stopping save on Daniel Cleary on a clear-cut breakaway with less than two minutes remaining.
"I knew that could be a turning point if I could make the save," he said. "I tried to be patient and wait for him to make the first move and I got a piece of it."
"It is a great feeling that we won this one," Fleury continued. "Last year was tough.
"Now we're alive and we're going to Game 7. It is awesome."
Kris Draper scored for the Red Wings, and Chris Osgood faced 31 shots in defeat.
"I thought they were better than us for about the first 32 minutes," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "They won more races and more battles."
Detroit knocked off Pittsburgh in six games last spring and, should the Red Wings repeat as champions this time around, it will be their fifth Stanley Cup in the past 12 seasons and 12th in franchise history.
"That is a big as it gets," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "You get a chance to play for the Cup and it is Game 7."
Detroit is the last team to repeat as Stanley Cup champion, in 1997 and 1998, and has outscored Pittsburgh 11-2 at Joe Louis Arena in the series.
'I'm a shooter, not a passer'
Staal staked Pittsburgh to the lead 51 seconds into the second period, chipping the puck off the side boards and breaking up ice on an odd-man rush with Matt Cooke.
When Red Wings defenceman Jonathan Ericsson dropped to his knees in anticipation of a pass, Staal took a shot that Osgood stopped, but he chipped the rebound over the netminder's left shoulder for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
"It ended up coming right back to me, so I just buried my head and fired it," Staal said. "I'm a shooter, not a passer."
Six minutes later, Staal nearly made it 2-0 as he pounced on a turnover in the slot and unleashed a wrist shot that Osgood kicked out with his right pad.
"With his skating ability and his size, he [Staal] can be a force in the defensive zone, he can be a force with his speed through the neutral zone and he can be a force in the offensive zone," Bylsma acknowledged. "We saw him do that numerous times tonight, where he was a force in every zone."
Osgood kept Detroit in contention with a pair of stellar saves in the final minute of the frame, too, when he blocked shots from Ruslan Fedotenko and Malkin.
Detroit failed to threaten offensively until Henrik Zetterberg stepped inside of Penguins rearguard Hal Gill and ripped a shot off the right post late in the period.
"It took us until the third period to get going," Red Wings forward Darren Helm said.
Persistent forechecking from Fedotenko and Maxime Talbot sent the puck behind the net to Kennedy, who curled out front and stuffed in his own rebound for his fifth at 5:35 of the third period.
"I just kept whacking at it and it finally went in," Kennedy said.
"He made a goal out of nothing," Bylsma observed.
But Draper snapped a 21-game scoreless drought with his first playoff tally at the 8:01 mark, lifting an Ericsson rebound into the net to trim the deficit to 2-1.
Moments after Malkin was penalized for cross-checking Valtteri Filppula, Penguins defenceman Rob Scuderi whisked a loose puck out of the crease before either Lidstrom or Jiri Hudler could reach it.
It was one of several crease-clearing saves by Scuderi, a defensive stalwart with six blocked shots.
"They were a desperate team and I thought it showed," Lidstrom said.
'He was unbelievable for us'
Crosby had a splendid chance on the opening shift when he worked his way in front, only to lose control of the puck as he tried to negotiate a backhand shot.
Crosby nearly scored with 5½ minutes left in the first period as he caught the Red Wings making a sloppy line change, but Osgood stopped his wrist shot from the shot.
Bill Guerin also tested Osgood early as Pittsburgh held a 12-3 edge in shots in the opening period.
Fleury was equally sharp at the outset, keeping it scoreless with a slick blocker save on Zetterberg alone in the slot.
"When Fleury is on his game like he was tonight, you can tell from the first stop he makes," Talbot said.
Petr Sykora replaced fellow forward Miroslav Satan in the lineup for the Penguins, but failed to factor offensively.
"Some of it is a gut feel, some of it is giving a guy an opportunity," Bylsma said. "Petr Sykora can get the puck on his stick and shoot it in the net."
The home team has won each of the six games played in the final, the fifth time that has happened since the NHL introduced the seven-game format in 1939.
In three of the previous four instances, the home team won Game 7 and the Stanley Cup.
"I'm sure the crowd has something to do with it," Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. "Hopefully, it stays that way."
The Canadiens proved to be the lone exception, beating the host Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in Game 7 in 1971.
"Do I care?" Talbot said. "No, I don't."With files from The Canadian Press