|Pens again try to spoil possible clincher|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 03 June 2008 11:48|
Just like that, Hockeytown began wearing one big hockey frown, and the Penguins get to play another game against the Detroit Red Wings that not many outside of Pittsburgh thought they would play.
If they've got enough healthy bodies.
Ryan Malone broke his nose - for the second time in the series. Sergei Gonchar has a back or shoulder injury that wouldn't allow him to shoot during his only on-ice appearance in overtime. Petr Sykora has a significant but undisclosed upper body injury. Sidney Crosby's right ankle, injured in January, won't be healed until he takes significant time off.
All, of course, are expected to play in Game 6 against Detroit on Wednesday night, mostly because that's the way it is for NHL players in June.
Injuries, exhaustion and fatigue aren't a factor now, as the Penguins proved in rallying from a 3-2 deficit in the final minute for a pulsating 4-3, three-overtime victory Monday night in Detroit.
``Physically, right now, it's more mental than anything,'' a sleepy-eyed Maxime Talbot said Tuesday, barely eight hours after the Penguins arrived back in Pittsburgh. ``If you can understand what I'm saying.''
The translation: For all of their pain, the Penguins know the Red Wings felt worse after failing to clinch the Cup on their home ice. Now, Detroit must play a road game it certainly didn't want to play, in what is guaranteed to be the Penguins' final and, probably, loudest home game of the season.
And, if it goes to a Game 7 on Saturday in Detroit, well, there are no guarantees.
Thanks to Marc-Andre Fleury's 55 saves, Talbot's tying goal with 35 seconds left in the third period and Sykora's called-shot game-winner in the third overtime, the Penguins became the first team since the 1936 Maple Leafs against Detroit to rally and win an elimination game in the Cup finals while trailing in the final minute.
``This was probably one of the best games for a long time,'' Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. ``And it's fun. ... And there's still a lot of hockey left to be played.''
Which is exactly what the Red Wings must be hating. With the Cup a few feet from their fingers, they couldn't get the job done on their home ice against a team they outscored 7-0 in the first two games in Detroit.
``They kind of had it in their pocket, and it was going to be hard for them to get up for this game (Game 6),'' Sykora said. ``So I think it's going to be a huge game.''
Just as it was Monday, the Stanley Cup will be in the house on Wednesday night, and the Penguins can't win it. But they can make sure the Red Wings don't, either.
``You could hear the crowd a little bit, `We won the Cup, we won the Cup,''' Talbot said of the atmosphere in Joe Louis Arena immediately before he scored. ``But you don't think about the Cup being in the hallway. You just think about getting the job done.''
If the Penguins become the second team in NHL history to rally from a 3-1 deficit and win the Stanley Cup - the 1942 Maple Leafs are the only team to date to do it - the goals by Talbot and Sykora may rank up there in Pittsburgh sports lure with Bill Mazeroski's 1960 World Series homer and Franco Harris' Immaculate Reception.
Talbot was on the ice when he scored only because of a hunch by coach Therrien, the extra man on the ice after Fleury was pulled. Sykora, who hadn't scored a goal in his previous eight games or taken a shot in Game 5, predicted to his teammates during overtime he would get the game-winner.
The question now is which team has more left: the Red Wings, who outshot the Penguins 58-32 and dominated much of Game 5, or the Penguins, who still trail 3-2 in the series but are riding a major crest of momentum.
``They were pushing the envelope pretty big in the third period,'' Therrien said, referring to the Red Wings rallying from a 2-1 deficit to take a 3-2 lead. ``And a few times in overtime. But he (Fleury) gave us a chance to win. He was just phenomenal.''
The Penguins also must like this: Five of the six previous teams that won a three-overtime game in the finals won the Stanley Cup.
The Penguins know what losing such a long game can mean. They won the first two games in Philadelphia during a second-round series in 2000, only to lose a five-overtime Game 4 at home. They lost the series in six games.
``Having gone through this, I think we're the better for it,'' Crosby said. ``But we have to be better.''
Especially since the Red Wings are likely to play with more desperation than they did Monday, when it was impossible for them to ignore all the talk about Stanley Cup celebrations and coronations, parades and partying.
``I think the most important think is don't think we're going to come tomorrow and it's going to go our way right away,'' Sykora said.
Several Penguins said that as tense, entertaining and as emotional as Game 5 was, it loses its significance if there's no Game 7.
``It's nice to talk about the game and everything,'' Talbot said. ``But it won't mean anything if we don't win Game 6.''