PITTSBURGH — The Penguins wouldn't let the Red Wings celebrate with the Stanley Cup, not again. Not in this Game 6 in their arena. Not without going the distance in a final where home ice means everything and momentum means nothing.
Third-line teammates Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy gave the Penguins a two-goal lead, and Marc-Andre Fleury held off the defending champion Red Wings during a frantic third period Tuesday as Pittsburgh beat Detroit 2-1 to tie the unpredictable series at three games.
Game 7 is Friday night in Joe Louis Arena, where Detroit is 3-0 but, as the oldest of NHL playoff adages goes, anything can happen when a single game determines who raises a silver trophy.
"That's a big as it gets. You get a chance to play for the Cup and it's Game 7," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Fleury, yanked during Detroit's 5-0 blowout in Game 5 after giving up four goals in the second, regrouped to make 25 saves and hold off the Red Wings, who went winless in Pittsburgh as they go for their fifth Stanley Cup since 1997.
"I thought the best thing coach (Dan Bylsma) said to us after that was, 'It's the same as last game. We still need two wins to win the Stanley Cup,' " defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "That calmed the room down. Instead of thinking, 'We're down, we're down, we're down,' you're thinking, 'Okay, two more wins.' "
Now, it's down to one — for both teams.
The Red Wings won the Cup by taking Game 6 in Pittsburgh 3-2 last year but were denied a second successive clincher there, and on the 25th anniversary of one of the biggest days in Penguins' history: the drafting of Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, now the team's owner, in 1984.
No silver trophy, not on this silver anniversary. Mostly because Fleury, so bad in Game 5, couldn't have been much better as the Penguins won for the first time in the playoffs without a point from stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
"He was unbelievable for us," said Crosby, who, like nearly every Penguins player, said Fleury has repeatedly bounced back from off nights with exceptional performances.
Maybe it was the good luck kiss Fleury got from his mom as he arrived at Mellon Arena, one that caused him to blush a bit when asked about it afterward.
Crosby taped a commercial last summer in which he watched the Red Wings celebrate wildly, then vows that it won't happen again. In nearly identical circumstances, it didn't as the Penguins forced the first Cup final Game 7 in their 42-year history.
"We weren't thinking about last year at all," Crosby said. "But we found a way to survive. And now it's anyone's game. It's going to be a great challenge … but it's an unbelievable opportunity."
Staal, whose key short-handed goal carried the Penguins to a 4-2 victory in Game 4, skated in on a 2-on-1 break started by Kennedy. Staal's initial shot deflected off goalie Chris Osgood's chest, but Staal gathered the rebound near the right post and pushed it in only 51 seconds into the second.
"It ended up coming right back to me, so I just buried my head and fired it," said Staal, who didn't pass because, "I'm a shooter, not a passer."
Detroit, outshot 15-4 at the start, finally began generating some offensive momentum only to have Kennedy, who has scored in each of Pittsburgh's last two home games, make it 2-0 at 5:35.
"They were a desperate team and I thought it showed," Lidstrom said.
Ruslan Fedotenko and Max Talbot pressured to keep the puck in the Detroit zone, allowing Kennedy to gather it behind the net and carry it in front. Osgood stopped his initial shot but Kennedy pushed in the rebound.
"He made a goal out of nothing," Bylsma said.
A two-goal lead with Pittsburgh playing with discipline and determination looked big, but the Red Wings sliced it to 2-1 when an undefended Draper — one of four players who has been on all four of Detroit's Stanley Cup winners since 1997 — grabbed Jonathan Ericsson's rebound in the left circle and put it past Fleury 2½ minutes after Kennedy scored.
"It's a great feeling that we won this one," Fleury said. "Last year was tough, now we're alive and we're going to Game 7. It's awesome."
|Series tied 3-3|
First Period—None. Penalties—Zetterberg, Det (goaltender interference), 3:35; Filppula, Det (tripping), 13:29.
Second Period—1, Pittsburgh, Staal 4 (Kennedy, Scuderi), :51. Penalties—None.
Third Period—2, Pittsburgh, Kennedy 5 (Talbot, Fedotenko), 5:35. 3, Detroit, Draper 1 (Ericsson, Lidstrom), 8:01. Penalties—Malkin, Pit (cross-checking), 9:18; Guerin, Pit (high-sticking), 12:40. Shots on Goal—Detroit 3-9-14—26. Pittsburgh 12-12-7—31. Power-play opportunities—Detroit 0 of 2; Pittsburgh 0 of 2. Goalies—Detroit, Osgood 15-7-0 (31 shots-29 saves). Pittsburgh, Fleury 15-8-0 (26-25). A—17,132 (16,940). T—2:24. Referees—Bill McCreary, Marc Joannette. Linesmen—Jean Morin, Steve Miller.
|Red wings 3, Penguins 3|
|Game 1||Red Wings 3, Penguins 1|
|Game 2||Red Wings 3, Penguins 1|
|Game 3||Penguins 4, Red Wings 2|
|Game 4||Penguins 4, Red Wings 2|
|Game 5||Red Wings 5, Penguins 0|
|Tuesday||Penguins 2, Red Wings 1|
|Friday||at Detroit, 8, Ch. 8|