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Hossa's playoff performance silencing critics

by Larry Wigge

Marian Hossa neatly picked the top corner of the net stick side to open the scoring 8:37 into the game and then got the primary assist on a goal by Maxime Talbot that tied the score 3-3 and sent the game into overtime.
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So, what about that reputation that Marian Hossa never scores in the playoffs? Or that he normally looks like he doesn't really care?

Is this just a playoff payoff for the potential unrestricted free agent winger on July 1? Or will Hossa settle for a good contract to stay on a line in Pittsburgh knowing how well he has connected with Sidney Crosby?

Those are just a few good questions that are still being answered by Hossa and the Penguins and they continue their quest for the Stanley Cup after staving off elimination and beating the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 triple overtime in Game 5 to close the gap to three games to two.

On Monday night, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound power forward from Stara Lubovna, Slovakia, neatly picked the top corner of the net stick side to open the scoring 8:37 into the game and then got the primary assist on a goal by Maxime Talbot that tied the score 3-3 and sent the game into overtime.

"That was a goal-scorer's goal," gushed Crosby. "That was a great deadline gift, so to speak, for our team and for me personally to be able to play with such a strong and talented player like Marian Hossa."

That goal gave the productive Hossa 11 goals and 13 assists in 19 playoff games this year.

"This was an unbelievable game to play in," Hossa said. "It was long, but it was fun. Especially fun to contribute.

"People were saying we were out of it when we were down 2-0. But every series is different. And in this one since Game 3, one bounce here and one bounce there and we could be ahead instead of down 3-2. Now we get to play at home again."

Can we put the no-playoff Marian story to rest?

"People can say whatever they want. I can't control that," Hossa added. "I know I didn't have some bad playoff years ... but I also had a few good ones, too. Right now, I feel good. Real good, even after three overtimes."

Hossa might have suggested we look at 2003, when he had five goals and 11 assists in 18 games as Ottawa went all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to New Jersey. But obviously, there is more to this year's playoff run for Marian.

Hossa and Crosby made things happen early and often for the third straight game.

After getting two assists, three shots, one hit and one blocked shot in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win in Game 3, Hossa added one goal, three shots and three takeaways in Game 4. In Game 5, he had one goal and one assist, plus three shots in the first period alone -- and he finished with six for the game.

The quizzical "what do I have to do to show you I care" look to reporters after sending the series back to Pittsburgh for Game 6 on Wednesday was clear. Then, he admitted things are different for him at this point in his career and that the trade from Atlanta to Pittsburgh at the deadline along with Pascal Dupuis for wingers Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, along with 2007 first-round pick Angelo Esposito and a first-round pick for 2008, was an opportunity to get a new life for himself.

"I'm playing with great players," Hossa said, looking to the corner of the locker room where Crosby and Dupuis have their lockers. "That makes it easy. I'm just happy I'm productive in the playoffs and I'm just trying to have fun. So far it's working for us."

Hossa had 26 goals and 30 assists in Atlanta before the trade. Since then, he's had 14 goals and 20 assists in 31 games with the Penguins.

Actually, Marian's best season to this point was 2002-03, when he had 45 goals in the regular season and another five in the playoffs. This season, he's got 40 and counting -- with 29 goals in the regular season and another 11 in the playoffs.

"I'm 29 and the way I look at it, there are four or five years in your prime and my goal is to win the Stanley Cup," Hossa said. "It's just a great opportunity being with a team that can go all the way.

"This is the kind of situation I've always hoped for. I want to play my best to help this team be successful."

"All I know is, for a guy that's been criticized and known for not scoring big goals in the playoffs when it's clutch time, obviously he's scored some big goals for us in these playoffs," said Dupuis, who sent the pass to the slot that set up Hossa for the quick 1-0 lead in Game 5.

Still, most considered Hossa a playoff burden, especially after the Red Wings shut out the Penguins in each of the first two games in the Final. Pittsburgh gave up so much to get the potential unrestricted free agent whom most feel will go elsewhere on July 1.

"You're not going to get me to complain," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. "Both Marian and Pascal have been a really good fit for us. They're both playing with Crosby. In one trade, you get two players to play with Sid. That's been really good for us. Good people. Good players. Good success for us.

"This is the kind of game where he makes others around him so much better. And when you get into three to four overtimes, he's like a horse out there for us. So strong. So talented.

"All I can say is, we're very happy with our part of the deal -- and as far as I'm concerned you can put to rest those stories about how Marian Hossa isn't productive in the playoffs."

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