Penguins stay alive in triple OT
Phil Coffey | NHL.com Editorial Director
DETROIT – Counted out in many circles after falling behind 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, the Pittsburgh Penguins came off the ropes and got off the canvas time and again Monday night to stun the Detroit Red Wings in triple overtime, 4-3, winning Game 5 of the series and forcing a return trip to Pittsburgh for Game 6 Wednesday night.
The game was the fifth longest in Stanley Cup Final history, with overtime lasting 49:57 before Petr Sykora ended it. The longest overtime was 55:13, set on May 15, 1990 when Petr Klima scored to give the Edmonton Oilers a 3-2 win over Boston in Game 1.
Pens coach Michel Therrien said he never doubted his team for a second.
"I know my team," Therrien said. "I know the character of those guys. And we're well prepared. We had a really good start."
But a much better ending.
The Penguins blew a 2-0 first-period lead, saw the Wings go ahead late in the third period, but then rebounded themselves to tie the game in the final minute of regulation, forcing overtime, then overtimes, and finally ruining what the Joe Louis Arena crowd had expected to be a celebration.
"You were that close, and then, oh, tough," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "And I think it's natural to feel bad for us for a bit, and feel bad for yourself. But it's the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be a battle, and obviously we're in one."
The Penguins were out-shot in the game 58-32 and there were many times when the Red Wings seemed to be just one small push away from toppling the visitors, but the Penguins wouldn't fall, thanks in large part to the play of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who was brilliant in goal.
"He was outstanding tonight," Therrien said of his goalie. "He was outstanding in overtime and both goalies obviously played really well. But no doubt Fleury, probably his most important win in his career."
Babcock agreed with the assessment of Fleury, but also was quick to praise the efforts of the other Penguins.
"Well, I thought he had some help," Babcock said of Fleury. "They got down to five 'D.' Their 'D' battled real hard. They got off to a good start tonight. They had two goals early, and I hated to see Petr Sykora get that puck late. You just know it's going in. He's that kind of guy. He won a game for me like that in Dallas in five overtimes. So Petr has that ability to score. And Fleury was good, and we didn't beat them."
Indeed, Sykora, who has struggled in this series, was the offensive hero, scoring a power-play goal at 9:57 of the third overtime to finally end the game. Detroit's Jiri Hudler had been given a double minor for high sticking Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi, opening the door for the Penguins, who got a boost when defenseman Sergei Gonchar, injured in the second period, returned to man the point on the winning power play.
"Yeah, I got a tough few games the last few games," Sykora said. "No bounces, no real shots on that, and it's nice to get over like that to keep us alive.
"And we get to live another day, just another game on Wednesday," Sykora said. "And I think if you can come up with the win, it's going to be a lot of pressure on them. But if you just worry about the game on Wednesday and hopefully we can get that win."
Sykora's teammates said he told them he was going to end the game.
"And about the shot, just between the periods, something stupid I said, just 'Guys, I'm just going to get one. So just don't worry about the game. I'm going to get a goal,'" Sykora said. "And luckily, I got a great pass from 'Gino.' I missed it one time before, probably by 20 feet. And it was kind of a lucky play. It hit the ref and went behind the net and 'Gino' got it, made a beautiful pass. I tried to put it upstairs, and the puck went in."
"Gino," the struggling Evgeni Malkin, was desperately looking for something to go right in this series, and got his wish, making the pass out from behind the Detroit net to Sykora as he skated into the right circle. Sykora's rising shot went over the glove of Chris Osgood to send the Penguins to not only an improbable victory, but another home game, Wednesday night at Mellon Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Network).
"I thought we had every opportunity to win the game, obviously. And saying that, though, we started slow," Babcock said. "I thought we were really nervous. We never made a play in the first period, for whatever reason. And whether that's focusing on outcome rather than just process and doing what you always do. You know, we really battled our way back, we had every opportunity. And we had it twice, one at the red line and one on the half wall. And we didn't get it deep, and we never got it out.
"In the end, they scored, and we never scored on our chances in overtime. So that's the game."
Darren Helm, Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski scored in regulation for the Red Wings, while Marian Hossa, Adam Hall and Maxime Talbot scored for the Penguins in the first 60 minutes.
Pittsburgh got off to a solid start to the game, controlling the play and hitting the Detroit zone with speed several times. But defenseman Brooks Orpik was called for hooking at 2:06 and the Pens had to go on the defensive. During that Detroit power play, Nicklas Lidstrom had a couple strong shots for the point with Fleury screened by Tomas Holmstrom in front. Unfortunately for the Wings, neither shot got through.
The Penguins were boxed again almost as soon as Orpik's penalty ended, when Pittsburgh was called for too many men on the ice at 4:15, but the Detroit power play was canceled when Datsyuk was called for tripping Jordan Staal at 5:24.
Hossa got the Penguins on the board at 8:37 when he beat Osgood with a fluttering shot from the slot off a Sidney Crosby shot. Pascal Dupuis gained control of the puck in the right corner and passed to Crosby standing on the goal line. He, in turn, got the puck to Hossa in the slot whose off-speed shot came through a Lidstrom screen and fluttered past Osgood's stick side.
There is no doubt that Hall's goal at 14:41 came as the result of a fortunate Penguin bounce. Hall came out from the side of the net to Osgood's left and tried to stuff the puck home. No deal there, but as Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall attempted to shot the puck behind the net, it clicked off the skate of Hall and into the net to make it 2-0 for the Pens.
The Wings had a golden opportunity to get on the board with 2:18 left when Pittsburgh defenseman Darryl Sydor lost the puck in his feet at the Detroit blue line and rookie Darren Helm poked it loose and roared in on Fleury on a breakaway. Helm fired wide in the Wings' best chance of the period.
The Wings got some luck of their own at 2:54 of the second to make it 2-1. Helm, he of the wide breakaway shot in the first period, made up for it when he and Valtteri Filppula hit the Pittsburgh zone with speed, as the Pens scrambled to defend, Filppula got the puck to Helm. His shot from the left circle hit a diving Scuderi and changed direction just enough to slip between Fleury's pads.
The second period was one of the most entertaining of the series as both clubs roared up and down the ice.
The Penguins' power play came up short after Kirk Maltby was called for interference at 5:48 and the Wings failed again with the man advantage after Crosby was called for high sticking Lidstrom at 10:18.
Fleury made his best save of the series with just 2:50 left in the period when Orpik couldn't handle a Crosby pass at the Detroit blue line, allowing Filppula and Mikael Samuelsson to break down ice on a 2-on-1 against Gonchar. Filppula got the puck across to Samuelsson, whose shot forced Fleury to make a spectacular, sprawling save, directing the puck into the corner with his left skate.
But it wasn't all good news for the Pens on the play as Gonchar crashed into the end boards and had to be helped off the ice. He would take a couple shifts in the third, but then sat on the end of the bench until going out on the power play that won the game.
"He was not ready to play," Therrien said of Gonchar. "They worked on it during the third period and the overtime and they came up to us that he was not 100 percent. But we asked if he was OK to play for the power play, and (he) certainly made a big difference."
Pittsburgh lost another player with just 1:22 left, when winger Ryan Malone, already playing with a broken nose, took a Hal Gill point shot square in the nose. The unfortunate Malone was cut on the play and immediately skated to the dressing room for repairs.
"We're following our structure," Therrien said. "Obviously they really picked up a notch in the third period and ended up scoring the goal when we pulled the goalie. And after that both teams left everything on the ice. And we scored a power play goal. But you see guys like Ryan Malone receive a shot in the face and come back. And it's pretty amazing, the price and the sacrifice that a lot of those guys have to pay."
The Wings came out like gangbusters in the third period, overwhelming the Pens from the drop of the puck with the loud crowd eagerly cheering them on.
With 17:40 left, the Wings appeared to tie it when Datsyuk stripped the puck from Sydor along the boards and then closed in on the Penguins net. The Wings began celebrating when Datsyuk appeared to score from five feet out, but the Pens kept playing, forcing a whistle. Video replay showed the puck had hit the crossbar and bounded out.
The situation for the Pens deteriorated further when Tyler Kennedy was called for hooking Brad Stuart at 6:27 and the Wings tied it on the power play when Datsyuk deftly redirected a slap pass from Henrik Zetterberg past Fleury, further increasing the din inside "The Joe."
The Wings continued to wear down the Pens and test their composure, and it nearly paid off with 11:42 remaining when the Wings created a turnover in the Pittsburgh end and Hudler's backhand shot was stopped by Fleury with only Dan Cleary in front. At that point, the Wings had a 6-0 edge in shots for the period and Therrien called for time.
The timeout seemed to only delay the inevitable when Johan Franzen spotted Rafalski breaking in from the right point and the defenseman sent a great shot to the far side of the Penguins' net to bring the Wings all the way back from a 2-0 deficit and into the lead.
But with everything going against them, the Penguins dug down one more time and tied the game with Fleury on the bench for an extra attacker.
"It doesn't work all the time, but I love Talbot's game," Therrien said of Talbot, who would score the tying goal. "He was on the puck. He's got a lot of energy. And one thing you know, you want to put the puck at the net, and he was always around the net. Honestly it was more of a feeling than anything."
Talbot indeed scored the goal that sent the game to overtime, taking a pass from Hossa at the side of the net to Osgood's left and beating the goalie on his second shot after Osgood made the initial save. Talbot thus achieved what was unthinkable moments earlier, silencing the crowd.
"Sure you're disappointed," Babcock said of coming so close to the Cup. "But we had such a great third period. We out-shot them 14-4. We went into the third period, and we were down. We came out with an opportunity to win the game in overtime.
"So I guess it's all on how you look at it. Would we have liked to have got the puck out? Sure. Would we have liked to get it out deep when it bounced over Z's (Zetterberg's) stick over the red line? It didn't happen that way. I thought ultimately we showed good resolve and played hard. We had lots of opportunities.
"I don't know what you do about that, though," Babcock said. "I mean, it happened. That's all there is to it. … (You) just have to ask yourselves how bad we want to win, and how determined we are. I think the resolve of the group is real good. I think the determination is real good.
"It's not like we didn't have every opportunity," Babcock said. "I believe when you do good things, good things happen. Just do good things again."