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Pens pay the cost for success

by Shawn P. Roarke

Pittsburgh's Ryan Malone barely missed a shift after being struck in the face by a puck during the second period.
Highlights from Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final
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PITTSBURGH -- The physical toll of Game 5 was truly staggering.

The teams played almost 110 minutes of hockey, combined to score seven goals, give and received 69 hits and block 43 shots before Pittsburgh emerged with a 4-3 victory at the 9:57 mark of the third overtime early Tuesday morning at Joe Louis Arena.

The game lasted a staggering four hours and 36 minutes.

On Pittsburgh's side alone, there was incredible carnage -- especially with another do-or-die game looming in Wednesday night's Game 6 in Pittsburgh (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio).

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar crashed head-first into the end boards after catching his skate on a back check during regulation. He missed more than half the game with back spasms before returning to play the power play during the game-winning goal sequence in the third overtime. 

"A real gutsy effort by him," says Brooks Orpik, his defense partner.

Orpik, himself, missed a portion of the OT session because he was cramping severely because of dehydration. He had to take fluids intravenously just to get back on the ice.

"I was just cramping up," said Orpik, trying to dismiss the severity of the situation. "I took a couple of IVs. I'll probably be peeing a lot tonight with all the stuff I drank."

Ryan Malone took a puck to the face in the second period while fighting for position in front of the net. He barely missed a shift and was on the ice -- screening Detroit goalie Chris Osgood -- when Petr Sykora fired home the winning shot. Malone was on the ice despite the fact that he needed five stitches to close the gash to the side of his nose and he also chipped a few teeth.

"You see guys like Ryan Malone receive a shot in the face and come back," said Michel Therrien, the Penguin coach. "It's pretty amazing, the price and the sacrifice that a lot of those guys have to pay."

Meanwhile, in the third OT, defenseman Rob Scuderi took a high stick from Jiri Hudler to draw the penalty that led to the game-winning goal. Scuderi prayed for blood so that Hudler would get a double minor and got his wish. He was still bleeding liberally from the cut on his chin as he addressed the media after the game.

With Orpik cramping and Gonchar contracting, the Penguins played a portion of the game with just four healthy defensemen. That would be a tall order virtually anytime, but it was a Herculean task against a deep and offensively powerful Detroit team in a lose-and-go-home situation.

Four of the defensemen -- Ryan Whitney, Orpik, Scuderi and Hal Gill -- logged more than 40 minutes each in the game. Whitney played a game-high 50:46.

Orpik insisted there was no way he was staying off the ice when he cramped up.

"I think the biggest thing is you never want to feel like you are letting your teammates down, especially in a game like this," he said. "You just gotta battle through it. All the guys on both sides are going through the same things. It's just one of those things that you have to grind through. A lot of times, fatigue is more of a physiological thing than anything."

Well, the Pens will have to convince themselves that they are not tired or hurt because they face another elimination game in Game 6.

The positive spin was already beginning just minutes after Game 5 ended.

"I feel great," said Max Talbot, who played almost 27 minutes and scored the goal that sent the game into OT. "I think your body can take way more than you think. Yes, it takes a lot of energy, but it just feels great because you don't think about the pain or being tired. You just think of being in Game 6 now and you just think about that."

That means all the heroics of Game 5 were forgotten before the charter flight went wheels up to head home in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has to forget about the brilliant 55-save performance, the highest save total in a Stanley Cup Final game since 1998. Petr Sykora has to forget about the winning goal he scored to extend the series. And Talbot has to forget about the goal he scored in the last minute of regulation to cancel the Detroit victory celebration -- the biggest goal of his career.

"I heard the Stanley Cup was in the hallway," said Talbot, with a sly smile. "We just wanted to play more hockey."

But Talbot's smile escaped as fast as Sykora's game-winner travelled from his stick to the back of the net. 

"It was a big moment, but after the third period, it was the past," Talbot said. "I'm just trying to forget about it because if we don't win Game 6, it will mean nothing. Guys are happy about what we did and the character we showed, but it's going to mean nothing if we don't win the next game."

Pittsburgh will get that chance Wednesday night before a very grateful and appreciative Mellon Arena crowd; less than 48 hours after pushing their bodies and minds to the limit to extend the season.

They promise they will be ready for the challenge -- dead legs and sore bodies be damned.

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