PITTSBURGH // The Pittsburgh Penguins staved off a furious third-period assault from the Detroit Red Wings to send the Stanley Cup finals to a Game Seven decider with a 2-1 home victory on Tuesday. The deadlocked best-of-seven series now shifts back to the Motor City for Friday's finale, where the defending champions will try to turn home advantage into a fifth Stanley Cup triumph in 12 seasons. "We're confident going back to our home building and playing in front of our fans," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "It (home ice) is something we fought hard for all year. You want to have that advantage at the end of the season and now we have it."
A year ago, the Red Wings claimed the Stanley Cup with a Game Six win in Pittsburgh but the visitors could not put the Penguins away this time. Pittsburgh's netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, chased from Game Five after conceding four second-period goals in a 5-0 rout, responded with a nerveless display by stopping 25 shots, including Dan Cleary on a breakaway with less than two minutes to play. "I think I've learnt that it doesn't matter how many goals you give up in a game," Fleury said.
"I think it's a matter if you lose. Since I was young I've been dreaming about making a save on a breakaway for the Cup. "So to have a chance like this is awesome." With the Stanley Cup in the building and the champagne on ice, the atmosphere inside the NHL's oldest arena crackled with anticipation. Eager to put their Game Five meltdown behind them, the Penguins came out flying and tapped into the energy of a raucous capacity crowd.
Outshot 12-3 in the opening period the Detroit defence would not be breached as the Red Wings weathered the early storm. But the Penguins' hard work was rewarded just 51 seconds into the second, Jordan Staal breaking in on a two-on-one with Matt Cooke then hammering home his own rebound past Chris Osgood after he had made the initial save. Tyler Kennedy doubled the Penguins lead 5:35 into the third, but the Red Wings cancelled that out when Kris Draper rifled a low shot past Fleury.
It would be the only puck to get past Fleury, who stood tall during a furious finish to the final period, frustrating the Red Wings on two powerplay chances to send the teams back to Detroit. Joe Louis Arena has been a fortress for the Red Wings, who are 11-1 on home ice this postseason, including three decisions over Pittsburgh. History also favours Detroit. On the 32 occasions that home teams have won the first two games of the Finals, only the 1971 Chicago Blackhawks failed to go on to win the Cup.
It also marks the 15th time the Stanley Cup has gone to a Game Seven with the home team winning 12 of the previous 14. Destiny not history, however, is what the Penguins are focused on. "Game Seven is a one game winner takes the trophy home," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We're going approach it like we just gave ourselves an opportunity that we didn't have before tonight. That's one game for the Stanley Cup."