The forgotten story of the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup-clinching win

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby raises the Stanley Cup, June 12, 2009, at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

If you remember one thing about the Penguins’ Game 7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings to claim the Stanley Cup 10 years ago, it’s probably Max Talbot’s clutch performance. His two goals were the difference in a 2-1 game that night at Joe Louis Arena.

If you remember two things, the image of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s sprawling save on Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom as time expired is probably seared into your mind.

Penguins teammates jump on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury after defeating the Red Wings in Detroit in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, June 12, 2009, in Detroit. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

If you remember three, one is almost certainly Penguin-turned-Red Wing Marian Hossa sipping stone-faced from his water bottle as the team he left in free agency for a better chance to win the Cup celebrated without him on the ice.

Other details have tended to fade into history in the years since, but one of them was certainly among the most impressive elements of the victory at the time: the Penguins played most of the final two periods without their best player and captain, Sidney Crosby.

His Game 7 effectively ended at about the 5:30 mark of the second period, when Detroit’s Johan Franzen crushed him with a check into the boards in the neutral zone.

He put barely any weight on his left leg as he skated off the ice before hobbling to the dressing room with the assistance of the training staff. Not the sight a fan wants to see when their team is nursing a 1-0 lead with the season coming to a climax.

There was no doubt on the Penguins’ bench, though.

“Sid has bailed us out a million times,” veteran winger Bill Guerin, now the team’s assistant general manager, told the Post-Gazette after the game. “It was our time to get the job done for him.

That’s exactly what they did. In fact, Talbot responded with a goal less than five minutes later to push the advantage to 2-0 and give his team some breathing room heading into the second intermission.

Crosby returned to the bench in the third period but his contributions were very limited. He finished Game 7 with 9:59 of ice time, more than just Pascal Dupuis and Miroslav Satan among forwards.

Fortunately, his team didn’t end up needing any more offense. Jonathan Ericsson’s goal at 13:53 was all the Red Wings managed before that wild barrage in the final few minutes, in which Fleury came up huge.

Time expired. The Penguins were champs. And Crosby? Well, let’s just say he looked OK skating that big trophy around the ice.

“It’s everything you dream of. It’s an amazing feeling,” he told the Post-Gazette before declaring himself “100 percent” for the championship parade a few days later.

The Penguins would struggle to deal with injuries to their captain in subsequent seasons. When it mattered most, though, they delivered one of the grittier playoff performances in team history to make him the youngest captain ever to lift the Cup.