DETROIT - Slide over Super Mario and make room on the Stanley Cup for the names of a new group of Pittsburgh Penguins.
Max Talbot scored two second-period goals and the Penguins overcame the loss of captain Sidney Crosby and a lot of history to beat the defending champion Red Wings 2-1 last night in Game 7, and win the Stanley Cup for the third time in the franchise's 42-year history.
Instead of the Red Wings becoming the NHL's first repeat champion since they won consecutive titles in 1997 and '98, this turned into a Penguins party for the first time since now-team owner Mario Lemieux captained them to championships in 1991 and '92.
The Penguins turned the tables on the Red Wings and captured the Cup on enemy ice, just as Detroit did in Pittsburgh last year. The Penguins are the first team to win the title the year after losing in the Final since Edmonton did it 25 years ago against the New York Islanders, which was the last Final rematch before this one.
Evgeni Malkin, who was the leading scorer in the playoffs with 36 points, earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP. He assisted on Talbot's first goal.
Crosby, just 4 years after being the No. 1 selection in the draft, became the youngest captain of a champion at 21 years of age. He played just one shift in the third period after leaving the ice during the second period after taking a hard hit along the boards from Johan Franzen.
"It's unbelievable. It's the stuff you dream of as a kid. It's reality now," Crosby said. "We worked so hard. It's amazing to see how far we've come, and couldn't feel any better."
Marc-Andre Fleury was stellar in making 23 saves, none bigger than the two he made in the final seconds, the last as he dove across the crease and knocked away a shot by Niklas Lidstrom.
"I knew there wasn't much time left," Fleury said. "The rebound was wide. I just decided to get my body out there and it hit me in the ribs so it was good."
He erased the memories of a 5-0 loss in Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena that put the Penguins on the brink of elimination. Pittsburgh returned home and gutted out a 2-1 win, behind Fleury's 25 saves, on Tuesday that forced the seventh game.
Jonathan Ericsson made it more interesting and tense when he cut the Red Wings' deficit to 2-1 with 6 minutes, 7 seconds remaining. His shot from inside the blue line sailed past Fleury's glove and sent the fans in "the Joe" into a frenzy.
Niklas Kronwall nearly tied it with 2:14 left, but his drive smacked the crossbar flush and caromed out of danger. The Red Wings pressed further after goalie Chris Osgood was pulled, but the puck ended up behind the net as time ran out.
Pittsburgh had gone 1-5 in Detroit in the last two Final series before pulling this one out. The Penguins' only other victory here was a triple overtime win in Game 5 last year. Talbot made that possible by scoring the tying goal with 35 seconds left in regulation.
The Penguins are the first team since the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Cup after trailing the series 3-2, and the first to take Game 7 on the road after the home teams won the first six games since the 1971 Montreal Canadiens beat the Chicago Blackhawks.
By winning, the Penguins completed one of the most improbable comebacks in NHL history. Stuck in 10th place in the Eastern Conference in mid-February when coach Michel Therrien was fired, even though he had taken the team to the Final last year, and replaced him with minor league coach Dan Bylsma.
Bylsma immediately installed a more uptempo, press-the-attack offense that eased the tension in an unhappy locker room and the Penguins took off, going 18-3-4 down the stretch. They pulled off an upset in the second round of the playoffs when they ousted second-seeded Washington by winning 6-2 in Game 7, also on the road.
Meanwhile, jubilant crowds of fans dressed in black and gold were on the streets of Pittsburgh celebrating the Stanley Cup championship as soon as the final hiorn sounded.
Drivers were honking their horns in reaction to shouts of "Go Penguins!"
There were no immediate signs of the fan reaction turning to criminal behavior, but police made plans in case things got out of control. Police made more than 80 arrests during spontaneous street celebrations following the Steelers' Super Bowl victory in February. *