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Penguins live to play another day

by John Kreiser

Ryan Whitney and Petr Sykora celebrate after Sykora's goal in the third overtime gave Pittsburgh
a 4-3 win, forcing Game 6 back at Mellon Arena.
Petr Sykora's game-winning goal
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PITTSBURGH -- The Penguins knew that, win or lose, they'd be heading back to Pittsburgh after Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Thanks to Petr Sykora and Marc-Andre Fleury, the Detroit Red Wings made the trip, too.
Instead of a Stanley Cup celebration, the Red Wings face a sixth game on short rest after Sykora scored at 9:57 of the third overtime to give the Penguins a stunning 4-3 victory over the Wings.
Monday night's win made Pittsburgh just the eighth team in the history of the Stanley Cup Final to avoid elimination on the road in Game 5 after going down 3-1. Only four of those teams got past Game 6.
"We get to live another day, just another game on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio)," Sykora said after scoring his first goal of the series but the third Playoff overtime game of his career to end the fifth-longest game in Final history. "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."
The sellout crowd at Joe Louis Arena was ready for a celebration after third-period goals by Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski capped the Wings' rally from a 2-0 deficit, giving Detroit a 3-2 lead. The noise was deafening as the clock ticked down under a minute, only to disappear when Maxime Talbot scored the Penguins' first sixth-attacker goal of the season, stuffing his own rebound past Chris Osgood with 34.3 seconds left in regulation.
Talbot, a checking center, was on the ice because coach Michel Therrien played a hunch.
"It's a feeling," he said when asked why he put his No. 3 center on the ice in the final minute when his team needed a goal to extend its season. "Coaches get feelings sometimes. It's rare -- it doesn't work all the time, but I love Talbot's game.
"He was on the puck. He's got a lot of energy. One thing you know: You want to put the puck at the net, and he was always around the net. But it was more of a feeling than anything."
Captain Sidney Crosby said he wasn't surprised to see Talbot on the ice with the Penguins' season on the line.
"He's a guy who is going to create space and work hard and dig pucks out," Crosby said. "He's played some big games over his career. He got a chance to go out there. I just saw, I think it was Hossa or Gino (Evgeni Malkin), threw the puck out by Osgood's left side and Max was there jamming away from the side of the net. I think he got it on the second chance. That's where the goals are scored in the playoffs, and that was a big one for us."
The goal bought the Penguins a chance to win in overtime, but it took 2½ periods of heroics by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to give Sykora the chance to be the hero.
Fleury had been fabulous during regulation, when his team was out-shot 34-18. He was flawless through almost 50 minutes of overtime -- and was especially brilliant during the first extra period, when the Penguins were out-shot 13-2 and often struggled merely to get the puck out of their own zone. He robbed Kirk Maltby with his pads and got his body in front of a backhander by Tomas Holmstrom after the Detroit forward found himself all alone, 10 feet in front of the net.
"He was the difference," Crosby said. "He held us in there, allowed us to keep battling and holding on. So a big part of that win goes to him. He kept us in the game."
It might have been the best game in the young NHL career of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 Entry Draft.
"He was outstanding tonight. He was outstanding in overtime," Therrien said. "(It was) probably the most important win of his career."
At least until Wednesday night at Mellon Arena, when the Penguins again face elimination.
They'll have to make a lot of improvements. The Pens were unable to hang on to an early 2-0 lead and withered in the third period under a barrage by Detroit. The Wings out-shot Pittsburgh 14-4 in the third period and scored the tying and go-ahead goals less than three minutes apart. There often seemed to have seven or eight red shirts on the ice.
"We were pressing for that third one, too," said Crosby, who barely missed giving the Penguins a three-goal lead late in the first period. "We just couldn't get it, and allowed them to get back in the game. And they scored that third one late, and basically it's just survival. You're just trying to hold on as long as you can and keep battling."
Thanks to Sykora, they'll be able to battle for at least another night.

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