PITTY PARTY

The last 6 minutes could have ripped out your insides. Fans on their feet, screeching their vocal cords. The Red Wings surging, their lungs burning, as they chased the only thing that mattered. One goal. One goal. One goal could make up for the whole night and turn this thing from hopeless to hopeful, reverse destiny, roll the stalled parade floats. Music blared in the breaks: “I want it all, and I want it now!” Then Niklas Kronwall fired and HIT THE CROSSBAR! The whole building groaned! Valtteri Filppula shot! It was caught by Marc-Andre Fleury. The Wings pulled their goalie. They chased and chased. Thirty seconds. Twenty seconds. Six seconds. The puck came off a rebound and there was one final shot, so close in, Nicklas Lidstrom stepped into it and fired and Fleury dove in the air as the fans gave one last collective scream …

And then.

And then, moments later, such quiet. In the tunnel. In the stands. In the dejected locker room. Quiet, as if the devil might hear you whisper and make it worse. Quiet is not what you expect in a Game 7 to determine the Stanley Cup. But quiet is what you get when the home team watches it slip away. Quiet is what you get when you are Lidstrom, who saw that last shot blocked by Fleury. Quiet is what you get when you are Marian Hossa, who watched the other team celebrate last year, and had to do it again Friday night, with the uniforms reversed.

Quiet is what you are left with on a night to forget, in a series to remember.

“We had our chances,” Lidstrom told NBC after the 2-1 Game 7 defeat. “But they played real well.”

Quiet. And then the trouble started …

Oh, it was raucous to start, thundering noise at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings began with energy oozing like hot dog mustard. They hit everybody. They shot anywhere. But halfway through the first period that energy seemed to burn off, the way mist burns off a morning ocean. And all that was left was the deep.

And it got deeper.

Deeper, when Maxime Talbot scored the first goal, on an awful turnover by Brad Stuart to the side of the Wings’ net.

Deeper, when Talbot scored another on a two-on-one breakaway, making it 2-0.

Deeper, when Fleury suddenly became a wall. Deeper, as the clock ticked down and the Wings were still scoreless. Jonathan Ericsson brought the place to life with a goal with just over 6 minutes left.

But it was not to be. And when the horn finally sounded and the blue lights flashed, the Penguins leapt into a huge pile of celebration and got to do here what the Wings did in Pittsburgh last year. “This is a dream,” Talbot told the CBC.

The Cup Goes East. A great run finally ends …

Chins up. No complaints. The Red Wings, who led their series, 2-0 and 3-2, lost the last two chances at the Stanley Cup, and then lost the Cup itself. It was no cheapie. No cursed bounce or haunted ricochet. The Penguins were the better team this night. Their defense was better. Their offense was better. Their pressure was better. And their puck protection was better. You aren’t likely to win when you give away that little rubber thing 11 times more than the other guy, as the Wings did.

So they can’t complain. They were at home. They had three days’ rest. They had more power plays and more shots. And – as if that weren’t enough – Sidney Crosby didn’t play half the game due to injury. Say the truth. The Wings looked tight. They got no goals from the stars. It was fitting Lidstrom was thwarted on the last shot. He had no goals all series. Neither did Hossa. Neither did Tomas Holmstrom. Neither did Pavel Datsyuk in his three games.

Defense matters. Grinders matter. Goaltending matters. But they keep score by goals. And the Wings were one short of tying, two short of winning.

Tip your hat to the Penguins. They did what no team had done in 38 years – win a Game 7 on the road to take the Cup. They were supposed to be younger, less experienced and less talented overall. Don’t tell them that.

“We couldn’t get it done,” forward Kirk Maltby said. “… We’ll be back next year.”

We hope. And we thank the team for a thrilling spring. But Friday was a night to forget in a series to remember. And it’s an awfully quiet morning around here.

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