PITTSBURGH - No clincher by the Detroit Red Wings in Pittsburgh, not this time in Game 6. Marc-Andre Fleury wouldn't let it happen as a wildly unpredictable Stanley Cup Finals is now going the distance.
Third-line teammates Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy gave the Penguins a two-goal lead, and Fleury held off the defending champion Red Wings repeatedly during a frantic third period as Pittsburgh beat Detroit, 2-1, last night to tie the Finals at three games.
Game 7 is Friday night in Joe Louis Arena, where Detroit is 3-0 in the series but, as the oldest of NHL playoff adages goes, anything can happen when a single game determines who raises a silver trophy.
Fleury, yanked during Detroit's 5-0 blowout in Game 5 after giving up four goals in the second period, regrouped to make 25 saves and hold off the Red Wings, who are trying for their fifth Stanley Cup since 1997 but, if they win it, will do so without a win in Pittsburgh.
"He was unbelievable for us," captain Sidney Crosby said.
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 in 1984.
No silver trophy, not on this silver anniversary.
"They won more races and more battles, had more play, were on top of us more and kept us to the outside," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Crosby taped an NHL 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 Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 in their 42-year history.
"We weren't thinking about last year at all," Crosby said. "But now we've got an amazing opportunity."
Staal broke a scoreless tie that followed a Pittsburgh-dominated first period by scoring in the first minute of the second period and Kennedy made it 2-0 early in the third.
After that, it was all Detroit as Kris Draper scored and the Red Wings, desperately trying to avoid a Game 7, kept pressing for the tying goal but couldn't get it despite getting their only two power plays of the game.
"They had desperation," Detroit's Darren Helm said. "They played hard from the start. It took us until the third period to get going."
Staal, whose key shorthanded goal carried the Penguins to a 4-2 victory in Game 4, broke in with Kennedy on a two-on-one break after Pittsburgh gained possession in the neutral zone. 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.
Detroit, outshot by 15-4 at the start, finally began generating some offensive momentum only to have Kennedy, who like Staal has scored in each of Pittsburgh's last two home games, made it 2-0 at 5 minutes, 35 seconds.
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," coach Dan 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 21/2 minutes after Kennedy scored.
The Red Wings, however, couldn't get the equalizer.
"It's a great feeling [to win]," Fleury said.
Stanley Cup Finals
Red Wings 1 Penguins 2
Series tied, 3-3
Game 7: Friday at Detroit, 8 p.m. (NBC10)