They're Not Dead Yet - Pens Force Game 6

"I'm going to score it" he told NBC's Pierre McGuire, referring to the sudden death game-winner.

109 minutes and 17 seconds after the opening faceoff - nearly 5 1/2 periods of hockey, Petr Sykora became the NHL's Babe Ruth.

 


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Take it back to Pitt...

What do you even say after a win like this? 

You just have to rationalize.  The win didn't take the Cup home, but it brings the series back home at least.  Of course, will Pitt ride out the five period victory for another game, or will Game 4's home-ice loss sit uncomfortably in the back of Pittsburgh's collective minds?

They'll worry about that on Thursday.

Pitt took a quick 2-0 lead in this game early in the first.  Considering the caliber of Fleury's play, it didn't look like Detroit would have an easy time coming back from a two-goal hole.  It was Detroit's to steal, and Pittsburgh's to win.

Lo and behold, the Penguins soon found themselves in a 3-2 deficit in the third with the final minutes of the season ticking down.  Or so viewers thought.

Less than a minute remained in the game when Marc-Andre Fleury skated to the bench in exchange for the extra attacker.  Fans everywhere, regardless of allegiance, were sitting on the edge of their seats in anticipation.  Detroit fans counted down the clock, while Pitt fans begged for a goal. 

35 seconds remained when Max Talbot was tackled by his fellow Penguins in celebration of the tying goal, a two-shot effort past a sprawling Chris Osgood, that sent the 3-3 game to overtime.

Throughout the first overtime, the ice was chippy, the puck was bouncy and the players were tired.  Those conditions would only worsen as the night progressed.

Nothing could be more evidence of a player's conditioning than a triple overtime fiasco.  Not to mention the undying passion to be on the ice with teammates in efforts to send the series to a Game 6.  Just ask Petr Sykora, Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Malone. 

First to take the bullet was Sergei Gonchar.  In effort to breakup a Red Wing breakaway, Gonchar slid head first into the boards behind Fleury and was beyond shaken up.  The obvious shoulder/neck pain would be enough to take Gonchar out of action.

Next on the plate was Ryan Malone, the victim of Hal Gill's rising slapshot.  If you happened to catch the action, all you saw was a stick, a rising puck and gloves thrown into the air before the blood spewed endlessly onto the ice.  Malone, who suffered a broken nose back in Game 2 of the series, was clearly not in good shape. 

As then there was Petr Sykora, who found himself ailing in what was described as the obligatory "upper-body injury."  Injury or not, he still maintained a solid level of confidence that proudly proclaimed he'd score the game-winner.

And score he did.  Right in the slot over a disheveled Chris Osgood; 4-3 Penguins final and a sigh of relief from the black and gold faithful.

Hockey games often have a "story of the night."  a game-winning goal or save, a hard hit or a player simply playing out of his head if often the target of this phrase.  Yet tonight's game is as much a collection of stories as your local library's book shelf.  From playing through injuries, to the seconds before Detroit's victory, there is no one moment that stands out as the ideal display of this game.

Marc-Andre Fleury comes awfully close though.  Out of the 58 shots faced MAF stopped an astounding 55.  Compare that to Osgood's 28 stops and Fleury nearly had double the workload.  Sykora may have scored the game-winner, but Fleury made it all possible.

It's games like this that hockey fans remember.  Years from now Detroit and Pittsburgh fans will have this game to look back on.  If the Penguins win the Cup, this will be the game you'll never hear the end of or stop seeing highlights of.  Penguins fans will never stop talking about it, while Red Wings fans will roll their eyes in eternal regret for that one night.

Pittsburgh has it's share of sports-lore.  Frank Pietrangelo's "The Save" and The Steelers ' "Immaculate Reception", just to name a few.  Now Petr Sykora's "The Shot" can find it's place in hometown tales.

The traveling circus heads back to Pittsburgh Thursday night for Game 6.  Lord Stanley will be along for the trip, but if all falls in favor of the Penguins, he won't see the light of day until Game 7 back in Detroit within the firm grip of Captain Crosby.

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