PITTSBURGH – The consolation for the Detroit Red Wings is that at least they will get to play Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final at home.
The Red Wings were put on their heels early by Pittsburgh’s forechecking and by the time they got their attack going it was too late as the Penguins fended off elimination with a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night at Mellon Arena.
The deciding Game 7 goes Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“It was nothing we didn’t expect,” said Red Wings veteran Kirk Maltby. “It was an elimination game for them and we knew they were going to throw everything at us.
“It was up to us to answer. We’re a little frustrated and disappointed, but we had our opportunities to at least get it tied and possibly take it into overtime. But we have to put it behind us. It’s over and done with. Now we go back to the Joe. It doesn’t guarantee us anything, but we’ll have our home crowd and it’s up to us to play our best game.”
The mood was calm in a Detroit dressing room loaded with veterans after the loss, even though they knew they wasted a chance to claim a second straight Stanley Cup.
The home side has won every game of the series thus far, with the Red Wings dominating their last one in Detroit 5-0 in Game 5, when they chased Pittsburgh starter Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period.
The Red Wings already have a Game 7 win over Anaheim in the Western Conference semifinals in these playoffs, but so do the Penguins, who beat Washington in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference semis.
“We haven’t played a whole whack of them over the last few years and now we’ll have two in one playoff run,” said Maltby. “You try to address it as just another game. It’s hard to do that, but that’s what you have to do.”
Fleury got them back in Game 6, stopping Henrik Zetterberg from in front after a perfect feed from Pavel Datsyuk on a rare Detroit chance early in the game.
In the second frame, Zetterberg was in alone and had Fleury beat but hit a goalpost.
The Penguins were up 2-0 when veteran Kris Draper finally scored as he knocked Jonathan Ericsson’s rebound into an open side.
There were more chances on Detroit’s only two power-play chances of the game in the third, including one that dropped behind Fleury but was swept away by defenceman Rob Scuderi.
And Dan Cleary, who led his team with six shots, was stopped cold on a breakaway with 1:40 left to play.
“It’s a little bit disappointing not getting a goal on the two power plays we had late in the game,” said captain Niklas Lidstrom. “That’s when you want your power play to be working to get that second goal.”
Coach Mike Babcock said the Wings put themselves in a hole with a passive start to the game.
“I though they were better than us probably for the first 32 minutes,” he said. “They won more races and more battles, were on top of us more and kept us to the outside.”
Datsyuk skated better in his second game back from a foot injury and had 19:50 of ice time, but finished minus-1, as did Zetterberg.
But now they head home, where confidence runs high. The Red Wings are 11-1 on home ice in the playoffs, the best of any team this year.
“That’s one of the reasons you want to finish high in your conference, to gain that home ice advantage,” said Lidstrom. “That’s what we’ve fought for all year and now we have that Game 7.
“It will be fun. I’m looking forward to it.”