DETROIT- The Stanley Cup only weighs 35 pounds.
To Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, it must have felt like they had the weight of the world lifted off their shoulders as they carried the coveted Cup over their heads Friday night with a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in a dramatic Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena.
While Crosby played the role of spectator from the bench after injuring his left knee in a collision with Johan Franzen in the second, the Penguins captain looked just fine with the Cup in his hands after Maxime Talbot scored twice to give Pittsburgh its first NHL title since 1992.
“I can’t recommend to anyone watching the final minutes of the seventh game of the Stanley Cup from the bench,” said Crosby with a smile. “But, to get to lift that Cup means so much. It’s a lot heavier than I thought, but it sure was a great feeling. It’s a dream come true. Everything you imagine and more.”
The Penguins had to battle long odds to win in the rematch of last year’s final. They scored as many goals last night as they did in the three previous games in Detroit in this series. The challenge became a lot more difficult without Crosby, but Pittsburgh players got it done.
“Nobody said a word on the bench when he left,” said Pittsburgh defenceman Brooks Orpik.
That meant someone else had to take charge.
“Sid was our leader and we wanted to win it for him. He’s been our leader and he’s a special. He was really down when he was hurt, but he knew we could do it. I’m proud to say we did it for him,” said Talbot, who opened the scoring at 1:13 of the second.
Talbot promised this won’t be it for the Penguins.
“There’s more Cups to come,” said Talbot.
The defending champion Red Wings didn’t go down without a fight. Not only did goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury have to make 22 stops, his best came with one second left when he dove in front of shot by Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom that would have tied it and sent it to OT. Only Jonathan Ericsson was able to beat Fleury in the third.
So, is this the start of something special for Pittsburgh?
“That’s a great thought. But, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into winning this and just because you get here it doesn’t mean that they give you a ticket back to the Stanley Cup the next year,” said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, who took over on Feb. 15th with the club at No. in the East.
“What we’re going to do right now is just enjoy this, take the Cup to our hometowns in the summer and get our names put on the Cup. Then, we’re going to go back to work in September and we’ll start thinking about what’s next. This has taken a lot to get here.”
The Penguins had to battle hard to make this happen. They were down 2-0 to start this series and came back to tie it up. They were behind 3-2 when they scored a 2-1 win in Game 6 to force last night’s deciding game. Then, they had to overcome to knock off the defending champs.
“I thought we looked out of gas pretty much the whole series,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “I thought competed and I thought we worked, but I never thought we got to the level we needed.”
It was Talbot who stole the show when it counted most and not far behind was his close friend Fleury.
“I always like to get up every day and say: “Today is the best day of my life.’ Well, today really is the best day of my life,” said Talbot. “When (Ericsson scored to make it 2-1) I told (Fleury) that I still had the winning goal, so I just wanted to make sure he would do it for me.”