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Third line is first-rate as Pens force Game 7

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 final is now going the distance.

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 final 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 final at three games each.

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.

"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.

Fleury, yanked from goal during Detroit's 5-0 blowout in Game 5, regrouped to make 25 saves and hold off the Red Wings, who are trying for their fifth Stanley Cup since 1997. The Red Wings won the Cup by taking Game 6 in Pittsburgh, 3-2, last year, but were denied a second successive Cup clincher there.

"We weren't thinking about last year at all," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "But now we've got an amazing opportunity."

But there's been no place like home in these finals, the first since New Jersey beat Anaheim in 2002 in which the home team has won every game. The Penguins took advantage of the 2-day break to regroup and, perhaps, to remember the frustration they felt in watching Detroit players carry the Stanley Cup around Mellon Arena last June.

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 being on the power play twice in the third period.

Crosby had 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 Final Game 7 in their 42-year history.

Staal's goal was the key, just as his shorthanded goal in Game 4 that started the Penguins on a three-goal flurry in less than 6 minutes en route to a 4-2 victory.

Staal broke in with Kennedy on a 2-on-1 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 finally began generating some offensive momentum early in the third period, and kept pressing for the tying goal, only to have Kennedy, a third-line forward who has scored in each of Pittsburgh's last two home games, make it 2-0.

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 2 1/2 minutes after Kennedy scored.


* A homesick Brent Sutter resigned as the coach of the New Jersey Devils after just two seasons, citing family reasons and scoffing at the idea that some might criticize him for leaving so soon.

Sutter said the Devils' crushing loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series had nothing to do with his decision. New Jersey, which won its seventh Atlantic Division title in 12 years, ended its season by giving up two goals in the final 80 seconds to lose to Carolina, 4-3.

Sutter spent 6 weeks mulling whether to return for the final year of his contract, but decided to stay home in Alberta to run an oil business and a junior hockey team, and to spend time with his family. *