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Game 6: Take a walk on the wild side

by Phil Coffey / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh surrendered a 2-0 lead in Game 5 and then seemed to be continually on the ropes in overtime until Petr Sykora’s power-play goal midway through the third overtime saved a spectacular performance from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from going in the loss column.  Game 5 highlights

PITTSBURGH – The comparison between a series like the Stanley Cup Final and a roller-coaster really is an apt one since everything can change completely with the next twist or turn.

The Red Wings were in the driver’s seat in Game 5, leading the series 3-1 and playing for the Stanley Cup at home. In fact, the Red Wings were within a half minute of winning the Cup until Pittsburgh tied it.

“It's nice to be close to it,” Babcock smiled. “Be nicer to have it.
 
“What can I tell you?” he said. “It's a game, like all games. You gotta do good things. We had the puck at the red line with one minute left, bounced over one of our sticks. We had the puck in our own zone with 35, 38 seconds, whatever it was. We didn't execute in that situation.  That's also part of the game.

“In their building the previous game they had a five-on-three.  We were able to survive, and win that game. And I think that's how fine a line it is. And (Monday) night I thought we were nervous nellies for about 30 minutes.  I've never seen us not pass the puck. They had nine scoring chances on turnovers by us. Don't take anything away from them.”

Now, with the Penguins’ dramatic triple-overtime win, momentum has swung to the Pens. Sure, the Wings remain one win away from the Cup, but the Penguins have gotten a jolt of confidence from the surreal win in Game 5, when Pittsburgh was all but eliminated until Max Talbot tied the game in the last minute of regulation play.

“Feel pretty good,” Sidney Crosby said on the day after the night before. “I mean, we're happy to still be playing. It was definitely a tough one last night, but we're just happy to really still be playing here.”

“Obviously it's a great feeling to come to the rink and work for Game 6,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “It was a character win, there's no doubt about that. And I give a lot of confidence to the players to approach our next game in a building that we're comfortable to play. In the meantime, it's like we're still focusing on Game 6.  So there's a lot of work to be done.”

Now, the Pens enter Game 6 (Wednesday, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) knowing that a home win squares the series and sends it back to Detroit for a climatic seventh game. Conversely, the Wings are well aware that while they let one slip away in Game 5, they remain in prime position to win the Stanley Cup.

“I think the disappointment phase ends about 15 minutes when you're out of the room,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “For me, it was when I got home, talked to my wife for a second, she was disappointed too. Like I said, when you get up in the morning, the sun gets up, and so do we and we're up 3-2, let's play.

“I said this last night, I'll say it again,” Babcock said. “I'm a real big believer, if you do good things, good things happen.  Just keep doing them.  When I go through our game (Monday) night, I didn't like our start, but I liked a lot of parts about it. I liked our opportunity.  Let's do it again.  Let's do it a little better.”

Few would have envisioned that scenario after the Wings won Game 4 in Pittsburgh to take a 3-1 series lead. In fact, few would have imagined the series still being alive after Pittsburgh surrendered a 2-0 lead in Game 5 and then seemed to be continually on the ropes in overtime until Petr Sykora’s power-play goal midway through the third overtime saved a spectacular performance from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from going in the loss column.

“Well, I think after coming away with a win like that, you feel great,” Sykora said. “I think mentally you're back in it. And I think we have to just go back to the same focus and the same mindset, like we were before Game 5. And I think we all know what we're going to play for (Wednesday).  Nothing changes.

“We have to win,” Sykora said. “And I think the building is going to be rocking, and I think we all are excited and hopefully we can get it done.”

Veteran Gary Roberts, one of the Pens’ inspirational leaders, came through, inspiring his teammates during the final moments of regulation play to not let the chance slip away.

“He was just giving us last words,” Talbot said. “Let's just give it all, leave it on the ice, and do what we can to come back. And it's always a great motivation to have him as a leader beside you, just screaming for you to do something. He's a true warrior out there.  You look at the way he came back, and he's playing right now.  He's a great motivation for us.”

Now, the Penguins have to turn the page and focus on the next Herculean task, namely beating back the Red Wings again. Detroit won the last time it played in Pittsburgh, so the Wings will not be suffering from a lack of confidence playing on the road.

“You know that you have to focus on Game 6,” Talbot said. “And physically, you just try to do what's going to make you feel better.

“But I think physically, it's more mentally than anything, if you can understand what I'm saying,” Talbot laughed. “Because I can't. I just mean even with long games like that, many times I think your body can take way more than you think.  I think it's a mind game.  If you're strong mentally, your body's going to follow.”

Let Therrien clarify.

“That's a game that could have gone both sides,” Therrien said.  “Honestly, Fleury made some key saves. Yeah, it's really a character game we played. I like the way we start the first two periods. (Chris) Osgood made some key saves for them, because we could have put that game away early in the second period.  We got some tremendous, great scoring chances.  They really pushed it in the third period. But like Game 4, I said that it could have gone both ways. Yesterday, it could have gone both ways, too, as well. So one thing is important that we still get a lot of work to be done. Confidence-wise, no doubt, it's a huge confidence builder for that young team, to be able to win in that building. And especially the way that we played our two first games.

“And we're just going to concentrate on Game 6.  Let's make sure, this our last game in Pittsburgh, and we're going to have to really make sure it's going to be pretty special.”

The focus now becomes laser sharp for both teams, and the Penguins are acutely aware that the Game 5 comeback means nothing without a Game 6 win.

“You just think about, you know, getting the job done,” Talbot said. “And we still had work to do.  And we got on the ice, and we did it; we came back. But it's nice to talk about the game and everything. But it won't mean anything if we don't win Game 6.  So yes, you think about this, but on the other hand there's still a lot of work to do.”

Crosby agrees.

“We have to be better,” he said. “We did a good job, I thought, especially in the first two periods of playing the way we wanted to, and we got away with it.  We got away from it for one period, and everything changed in a hurry. So it's a wake-up call, so to speak. We're still here, still battling, and we still have an opportunity here.”

Especially since the defeat was so stark for the Wings, having had the Stanley Cup almost literally in their grasp.

“For them, they kind of had it in their pocket, and it was going to be hard for them to get up for the game, too,” Sykora said of the Wings. “So I think it's going to be a huge game. I think the preparation is going to be the same for us. And like I said before, it can't get any better than to be up for games like that. I think it's a lot of fun.”

Author: Phil Coffey | NHL.com Editorial Director

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