Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Fleury saves the night; Sykora sends series to six

They were into the third overtime before the Pittsburgh Penguins once again found an extra burst of energy to send Stanley back to his case and the Red Wing fans off to make plans for Wednesday night.

In a wild night of hockey, the Pens took an early lead, surrendered it by three goals and then battled back with the clock running down to send game five in to Overtime. Once there, two complete overtimes settled nothing leading to period number six and with Detroit's Jiri Hudler serving a double minor for high sticking, Pete Sykora’s shot midway through the third overtime eluded Chris Osgood and brought to an end a rolling night of excitement, providing the Pens with a thrilling 4-3 victory and yet another life in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

For most of the night it seemed as though only a matter of time before the Red Wings took charge of the game. They were often in the Pittsburgh end of the rink and fired shots at Fleury in rapid succession, only to be stymied by the Pens goaltender who perhaps put on his best performance on Monday night.

The Penguins seemed to be barely hanging on at times, desperate to clear a puck more than anything else, the thought of making more than an occasional foray into the Detroit end seemingly far from their minds.

While they came out in the first period and certainly shocked the Wings, by the third period it seemed that Detroit had finally found the knock out punch they had been seeking. The third was another in the clinics that the Wings put on in this series, classic puck control, pinpoint passing and rocket launcher shots that but for Fleury’s remarkable performance should have put Stanley firmly in the hands of the Red Wings.
It was a night that won't be remembered fondly by Wings goaltender Chris Osgood, who did not have a particularly good night. He looked tentative too often and seemed to lose his focus on events around him at times, while still providing key saves at the required times, he was hardly overworked in the regulation time and didn't have the kind of game that Championship games depend upon.

He bounced back a bit in the overtime, for the most part providing the Wings with the defensive plays required, but as always, it’s the last goal that counts and in this game the Pens had the two most important ones, the last goal of regulation with less than a minute to play to send it into overtime and then 49 minutes later the last goal of the game that sends everyone back to Pittsburgh for game six on Wednesday night.

Hockeytown was ready for a party on Monday, the local Detroit NBC affiliate providing both a pre and post game show for the spectacle, with the pre game version significantly more upbeat, positive and ready to rock. It’s as though everyone had been given their script except for the Penguins who decided that they weren’t quite ready to take their leave from the NHL stage just yet.

Down 3 games to 2, in the best of seven the Pens will have suddenly shifted some of the pressure back onto the Red Wings for the remainder of the series. Mindful of past lapses that proved costly, the Wings will have to rededicate themselves to full sixty minute effort in Pittsburgh and try to wrap things up in six.

While it’s nice to win the big game, the clinching game at home, it’s much worse to take them to a game seven and see it all slip away. A wise Red Wing team will refocus on Wednesday night and the opportunity it provides to claim the Stanley Cup for 2008, Pittsburgh gained yet another life with their 4-3 victory on Monday night, now the job is to continue on with their momentum and set up a winner takes all game seven for the weekend, to get their they need a must win in game six.

It’s something that the Penguin faithful will be more than willing to provide assistance towards on Wednesday night.

Globe and Mail-- Penguins survive Game 5
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Not so fast: Penguins win in third OT
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Late, last laugh belongs to Penguins
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Penguins live to fight another day
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Penguins force Game 6 with 4-3 3 OT win
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Wings headed back to Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Penguins aren't history yet
NHL.com-- Stats Pack

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