Late, last laugh belongs to Penguins
Marc-Andre Fleury makes one of his 55 saves as the Red Wings' Dan Cleary is called for goaltender interference in the second overtime of the Stanley Cup final last night in Detroit.
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DETROIT -- It all sounded so hollow at the time, strictly false bravado from a team that looked to be little more than a speed bump on the Detroit Red Wings' way to their Stanley Cup parade. I'll admit it. I had to stifle a sneer Saturday night, in those agonizing moments after Detroit's 2-1 victory at Mellon Arena, when Penguins winger Marian Hossa said the guys would make things "miserable" on the Red Wings when they attempted to shut down the Penguins for the summer in Game 5 here last night. I had to do the same thing yesterday at the morning skate when teammate Gary Roberts promised "our best game."
Well, guess who had the last laugh on their doubters on this amazing Detroit night and morning?
After the Penguins won a game for the ages, one of the most impressive in their history, 4-3, on a power-play goal a by Petr Sykora in triple-overtime to stay alive and spoil Detroit's best-laid party plans?
"We just didn't want our season to end," defenseman Rob Scuderi said.
All of the Penguins were too tired after 109:57 of tense, grueling hockey to revel too much in the win. There was no time for that. There's still too much work to be done. To win the Cup, the Penguins must beat the Red Wings in Game 6 at Mellon Arena tomorrow night, then again in Game 7 here Saturday night.
The odds still heavily favor the Red Wings.
But, at least, Detroit's big red machine no longer looks quite so invincible.
Not after the Red Wings blew a 3-2 lead in the final minute of regulation.
NHL officials were shining the Cup and getting ready for its presentation after Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski scored within a 2:40 span midway through the third period for a 3-2 lead. And why not? The Red Wings had been so dominant defensively throughout the series. To that point, they had outscored the Penguins, 8-1, in the third period of the five games. Surely, they could protect that one-goal lead and set off a massive Detroit celebration.
"The nice thing about playing with this group is no one ever panics," Scuderi said.
Winger Max Talbot certainly didn't. He got the tying goal with 34.3 seconds left.
Talk about silencing the bedlam in Joe Louis Arena.
But Talbot was only one of many stars for the Penguins.
"It seems like three games ago that he scored that goal," defenseman Ryan Whitney said, grinning.
There was goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 55 of the 58 shots the Red Wings threw at him. He almost single-handedly kept the Penguins in the game in the first overtime when Detroit had a 13-2 edge in shots.
"That was," Whitney said, "the game of his life."
There was defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who left the game early in the third period with a back injury and didn't return until that deciding power play in the third overtime. He ended up getting an assist on the Sykora goal.
"His back was killing him," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "They asked him if he could push through it if we got a power play. He said he'd try. That was just a gutsy effort by him."
There were the five Penguins defenseman -- Whitney, Orpik, Scuderi, Hal Gill and Darryl Sydor -- who had to work overtime on top of the overtimes because of Gonchar's injury. Whitney played a staggering 50:46.
"All five guys just kind of gutted it out," Scuderi said.
And there was Sykora, who had been next to invisible in the series and harshly criticized because of it. His goal was his first point of the final.
Couldn't have come at a better time, eh?
Long-time Cup observers said it was one of the all-time great final games.
Who's to argue?
Now, that precious Cup has been packed back in its box and is returning to Pittsburgh for Game 6.
"I can't even imagine what Mellon Arena is going to be like on Wednesday night," Whitney said.
The Penguins hope the Cup has to travel one more time, back to Detroit for Game 7 Saturday night.
"We put ourselves in this position," Roberts said, shrugging. "It's up to us to dig our way out."
The man who has become such a cult hero in our town sounded so matter-of-fact.
Trust me on this:
There was nothing hollow-sounding about his words.
First Published June 3, 2008 1:21 am