After he hoisted the Stanley Cup in celebration and shared a private moment with his coach, Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins hero Maxime Talbot had one thing on his mind.
"I'll be back in a minute. I need to find my family," said Talbot, who scored both goals in the Penguins' 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in the seventh game of the final.
But Talbot had more difficulty wading through the horde of league officials and reporters allowed onto the Joe Louis Arena ice surface than he did manoeuvring around Detroit defenders in the game. Reporters stopped him before his eyes caught his brothers.
"I love you," he shouted to them. Then out of nowhere, Talbot's mother Lucie ran into his arms. "That's my boy," she said.
"She drank all of my champagne, too," Talbot said later.
Talbot doesn't have the name recognition of his more talented teammates, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy. Talbot is known as Bad Hands to his teammates.
"These two goals don't fix my stick-handling," the native of Lemoyne, Que., said jokingly.
Still, neither his teammates nor Penguins management was surprised.
"I'm not sure if they give three stars in this game, but he deserved two of them," said Penguins general manager Ray Shero, whose late father Fred won two Stanley Cups as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers in the mid-1970s.
In a game in which the Penguins lost their captain, Sidney Crosby, to a left-knee injury early in the second period, Talbot backed up his strong words prior to the final when he was asked about facing Detroit forward Marian Hossa, who bolted the Penguins last summer to sign a one-year deal with the Red Wings because he felt they had a better chance to win the title than Pittsburgh.
"There's nothing I'd like more than to be able to shake Marian's hand at the end of this series, look him in the eye and say, 'You chose the wrong team,'" Talbot told a French-language Montreal radio station two weeks ago.
"Max put the cape on tonight," Bylsma said.
It was fitting that Talbot received the Stanley Cup from goalie Marc-André Fleury in the on-ice celebration. The two not only grew up together, they lost the 2004 world junior gold together. Fleury's diving stop on Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom with two seconds remaining made sure Talbot's second goal midway through the second period stood up as the winner.
"I went to Flower [Fleury]in the Carolina game when I scored in Game 4 and said it's up to you to make sure I scored the game winner and he did it again," Talbot said.
After Detroit rookie Jonathan Ericsson scored with 6 minutes 7 seconds remaining in the game, Detroit's Niklas Kronwall snapped a shot off the crossbar with just under two minutes left. In the frantic remaining seconds, Fleury stopped Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk and then dived to keep Lidstrom's rebound out of the net with a chest save.
"We just didn't have enough," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "With the injuries, and I know every team has injuries, but I don't think we ever got back to the level we were at."
Talbot, 25, already had given his team a 1-0 lead after a turnover by Detroit's Brad Stuart, when Crosby departed after getting rubbed out along the neutral zone sideboards by Red Wings forward Johan Franzen. Crosby tried to jump to avoid the hit, but his knee was pinched by Franzen's hip at the top of the boards.
Crosby returned to the bench after the second intermission, but other than a brief 32-second shift midway through the final period, he became a cheerleader.
"I couldn't really walk," Crosby said. "I tried to numb it [with a painkiller shot and a couple of pills] It was painful [to watch]… I don't recommend to anyone to watch the Stanley Cup from the bench."
From owner Mario Lemieux, who rescued the franchise from bankruptcy a few years ago, to 38-year-old veteran Bill Guerin, there were plenty of smiling faces on the Pittsburgh side.
Lemieux, of course, steered the Pengiuns to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. Three years later, a 24-year-old Guerin celebrated with the New Jersey Devils when they swept the Red Wings in the final.
"I was so young and I thought I would get a million more chances," a choked-up Guerin said. "You just don't, you don't."
Even though the previous six games in this series were won by the home team, the Penguins proved to be road warriors. They clinched each of their four series on the road and became the first major professional sports team to have won on the road in a seventh game of a championship series since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.
"It's a dream come true," Crosby said.
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