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PITTSBURGH (AP) -Every kid growing up with a hockey stick and a notion of being an NHL player wants to be in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Sidney Crosby always did. Tyler Kennedy estimates he played a thousand Game 7s in his driveway.
The Detroit Red Wings insist they can't wait for this one on Friday night, back in the arena where they rarely lose and the Pittsburgh Penguins appear hesitant and a bit intimidated.
They're not entirely convincing when they say it.
No doubt the Red Wings didn't want to take it this far after dominating three of the first five games, yet Pittsburgh's desperation 2-1 victory Tuesday in Game 6 extended a flighty finals in which almost no game resembles the one before it.
That's what must worry the Red Wings more than a little, despite their 11-2 scoring edge against Pittsburgh at home and the 11 Stanley Cup championship banners that already hang from the Joe Louis Arena rafters.
"We've got an amazing opportunity here," Crosby said after the Penguins took a 2-0 lead early in the third, then held off surge after surge from Detroit.
A year ago, the Red Wings paraded with the Stanley Cup in Mellon Arena after winning 3-2 in Game 6. This time, with the Cup in the building again, the Penguins made certain the silver trophy wasn't handed out on the silver anniversary of franchise icon Mario Lemieux being drafted in 1984.
"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."
For both teams. The Red Wings can win their fifth championship in the last dozen seasons, a wave of success that no other team in the four major American pro sports leagues has duplicated during that time span.
"Going back at home, I think we feel pretty comfortable," Darren Helm said.
And the Red Wings should, given their 11-1 record there in these playoffs. Also, the home team has won each of the last six finals Game 7s dating to 1987, and no road team has raised the Cup following a Game 7 since Montreal in Chicago in 1971. That's the last time that a team lost the first two games on the road, as the Penguins did, and recovered to win the Stanley Cup.
Still, there's this for the Red Wings to think about: Two rounds ago, Pittsburgh also lost the first two games on the road, then went into Washington for Game 7 and won 6-2.
"Game 7 is a one-game, winner takes the trophy home," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Who can put the other guy back on their heels? Who can capitalize on the power play? ... I don't have a lot of experience, but we just gave ourselves an opportunity that we didn't have before. That's one game for the Stanley Cup."
"We're going home. Last game. You win, you win the Stanley Cup," Helm said. "So we're feeling pretty good, but we know it's not going to be easy. They won a big game against Washington in their rink, so we know they can win a Game 7 on the road."
Detroit knew the Penguins would play with desperation during a possible elimination game and they did, taking 15 of the first 19 shots. They finally broke through goalie Chris Osgood when Staal, whose short-handed goal got the Penguins going during their 4-2 win in Game 4, put in his own rebound early in the second period.
That 1-0 lead, as precarious as it was, held up until Kennedy also stuffed a rebound past Osgood at 5:35 of the third.
Detroit got to within 2-1 when four-time Stanley Cup winner Kris Draper ended his playoffs-long slump by scoring at 8:01, but the Red Wings couldn't get the tying goal past Marc-Andre Fleury despite being on the power play twice during the third period.
Fleury was lifted after allowing four goals in the second period of Game 5 but, as he often does, rebounded from a bad game by playing an exceptional one.
"I've learned throughout my years that it doesn't matter how many goals you give up," Fleury said. "If you lose, you lose. It doesn't matter if I give up one or five, I try to forget about it, put it in the back and come to the rink with a smile."
The Penguins forced the first finals Game 7 in their history without a goal from Evgeni Malkin and Crosby, who produced eight of Pittsburgh's first 10 goals in the series.
"Every kid growing up, you play street hockey, you play in the outdoor rinks, you always dream of that (Game 7)," Crosby said. "There's always something that sticks out about playing for the Cup in Game 7. We've got an amazing opportunity."
|Jordan Staal (4) ASST: Tyler Kennedy (4), Rob Scuderi (3)|
1 - 0 PIT
|Tyler Kennedy (5) ASST: Max Talbot (5), Ruslan Fedotenko (7)|
2 - 0 PIT
|Kris Draper (1) ASST: Jonathan Ericsson (4), Nicklas Lidstrom (11)|
2 - 1 PIT
|Henrik Zetterberg Interference on goalkeeper against Marc-Andre Fleury|
|Valtteri Filppula Tripping against Bill Guerin|
|Evgeni Malkin Cross checking against Valtteri Filppula|
|Bill Guerin Hi-sticking against Kris Draper|
|SA: 31||TOI: 58:48|
|Saves: 29||EV: 25 - 27|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 4|
|SV%: .935||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 26||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 25||EV: 21 - 22|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 3|
|SV%: .962||SH: 1 - 1|