Desperation and desire had a name in Scuderi

His exhausting example led the Penguins through 60 minutes of survival

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There was no room for interpretation on the exact nature of the effort required if the Penguins were somehow to arrange a seventh game of this Stanley Cup final.

The sweat itself, wrung from their black sweaters, would create a fourth river.

But desperation and desire had a name at Mellon Arena last night, and its name was Rob Scuderi.

Or as they are calling him inside the dressing room these days, "The Piece."

That's from a story Scuderi was forced to tell on himself late last night, not long after he had swept from the goal mouth a potentially tying loose puck behind Marc-Andre Fleury. After he had blocked three shots on two late Detroit power plays as the Penguins protected a one-goal lead in a psychological torture chamber of a third period. After he had planted himself on the goal line next to Fleury and dug in like Mean Joe Greene as the Red Wings turned the rubber disc into the point of a battering ram.

Piece be with you.

"It was a bad quote," Scuderi said. "Instead of saying I was just a piece of the puzzle here, I said something I was the piece. Which makes perfect sense, of course. It can't be Sid or Geno, it's me, obviously.

"I didn't mean to say it, but it came out, and now that's what they're calling me, The Piece."

Scuderi's teammates delighted in this story almost as much as they did in the performances of Fleury and Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy, and of every last contributor to a third trip to Detroit.

"The best thing that happened was what [coach Dan Bylsma] said before the game," Scuderi said. "He just said that tonight was the same situation as last game. We need two wins for the Stanley Cup. That's all. It calmed everybody now."

And now they need one.

Game 6 will be remembered mostly for Fleury's pad save on breakaway bound Dan Cleary with 1:42 remaining.

Jordan Staal, thought to have scored THE GOAL THAT CHANGED THE ENTIRE FACE OF THE STANLEY CUP FINAL only to have it somewhat overshadowed by a 5-0 skunking by Detroit in Game 5, thought he would give it another try just as the second period started.

This time he caught Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart pinching along the left-wing boards, swiped the puck, tapped it off the boards around Vallteri Filppula, and embarked on a two-on-one with Matt Cooke toward Osgood.

That ended when Staal fired and buried the rebound to put the Penguins ahead, 1-0.

If nothing else, Staal's fourth goal of the playoffs prevented Detroit from scoring first. The Red Wings were 10-1 when scoring first in these playoffs.

But as the second period aged toward the desperate third, Staal's goal stood through all kinds of chaos in front of both goals, particularly in the final minutes of the period.

Henrik Zetterberg, still the most dangerous offensive player on the ice despite the 60-plus points put up in this postseason by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (the first teammates to get at least 30 apiece since Brian Leetch and Mark Messier did it in 1994) skated in against Brooks Orpik with two minutes left. Zetterberg slid the puck from his backhand to his forehand under Orpik's stick, the flicked it past Fleury only to hear it ring off the far post, bounce between Fleury's legs and settle there as the Penguins goalie fell to the seat of his pants.

Almost immediately, Osgood made two saves at the other end that were merely spectacular.

He stoned Ruslan Fedotenko when he tried to whack in a perfect pass from Malkin, then stopped Malkin swooping across the crease. Either one of those getting fished out of the Red Wings net might have sent this series back to Motown.

Still, even Staal's lone goal held some significance. Neither team had lost a game in the postseason when leading after two. The Penguins were 9-0, Detroit 12-0.

"The best defense for us is having our offense play in the other end," Scuderi said, deflecting any suggestion that his defense was, uh, the piece. "Once you've played in your end for too long, that's when you get in trouble."

All the trouble is gone from this series now. It's just a matter of opportunity.

Friday night seems a good time to decide it. You know, before the back to school sales start.

Gene Collier can be reached at .


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