The Stanley Cup was in the building. Family and friends were brought in with anticipation of another celebratory skate around the Mellon Arena ice.
But if there is going to be a second consecutive championship celebration for the Red Wings this year it's going to be in Detroit. This Stanley Cup final where home-ice advantage has meant so much through six games will come down to one final game at Joe Louis Arena after the Penguins staved off elimination with a 2-1 victory in a thrilling Game 6.
"You can't ask for anything more than a Game 7 at home," Red Wings winger Henrik Zetterberg said. "We're looking forward to it. We have a few days to rest and refocus."
The deciding game will be played Friday night, and Detroit will be favored to win because of its dominance at home throughout the playoffs. The Red Wings are 11-1 at home in his postseason with the only loss coming against Anaheim in the second round. The Red Wings have won the first three games against the Penguins at home by a combined score of 11-2, including a 5-0 victory in Game 5 Saturday.
"We're confident going back into our building," Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "It will be fun going back to play Game 7."
Three days after their most impressive game of the Stanley Cup final in Game 5, the Red Wings came out flat and didn't make things interesting until the third period last night. But the late push that included two golden opportunities on the power play, a breakaway that was denied with less than two minutes remaining and a late scrum in the front of the net proved to be too little too late as the Penguins forced the 15th Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final history.
"They played harder and better than we did in the first two periods," Red Wings center Darren Helm said. "We definitely didn't have the start we wanted. They definitely had the energy and put us on our heels. We can't do that against a team like this."
After putting only 12 shots on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the first two periods, the Red Wings peppered Fleury with 14 shots in the third. The late flurry came after the Penguins took a 2-0 lead on goals by Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy.
Kris Draper scored off a rebound 8:01 into the third period. After that goal, a full-fledged onslaught ensued thanks to two careless penalties by the Penguins. The first power-play opportunity came with 10:32 remaining in the contest after Evgeni Malkin cross-checked Valterri Filppula from behind.
The Red Wings had some great chances on Fleury, but could not score the tying goal. The best chance on that man-advantage came when a puck dribbled through the legs of Fleury and dangled in the crease for what seemed like an eternity. Lidstrom was tantalizingly close to putting the puck into an empty net, but Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi cleared the puck away before Lidstrom could close in.
"That was a little disappointing not getting a goal on those two power plays at the end," Lidstrom said. "You have to tip your hat to them. We had our chances to get a couple of goals, especially late. We our chances to tie the game up."
The second power play came when Bill Guerin high-sticked Draper in the face and received a two-minute penalty. The Red Wings had the puck in the Penguins' zone and had their opportunities, but Fleury kept the Red Wings from tying it.
The two best chances of the game were yet to come. With 1:42 remaining, Dan Cleary got behind the Penguins' defense and was in alone, but he couldn't beat Fleury.
Then as time ticked down, with the puck was loose in the crease, Scuderi made a skate save to deny Johan Franzen with 13.2 seconds left.
"It's frustrating to have all of those chances and not to tie it up," Helm said.
"We had a good third period," Draper said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get started on time"
Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1230.