Penguins battered but alive
Maxime Talbot and Petr Sykora may well become part of Pittsburgh's sports lore.
PITTSBURGH - The Stanley Cup Finals haven't seen anything like this in 72 years - a team staving off elimination by scoring in the last minute of regulation time and winning in overtime.
Just like that, Hockeytown began wearing one big hockey frown, and the Pittsburgh Penguins get to play another game against the Detroit Red Wings that not many outside Pittsburgh thought they would play.
That is, if they've got enough healthy bodies.
Ryan Malone broke his nose - for the second time in the series. Sergei Gonchar had a back or shoulder injury that wouldn't allow him to shoot during his only appearance in overtime. Petr Sykora has a significant but undisclosed upper-body injury. And Sidney Crosby's right ankle, injured in January, won't be healed until he takes significant time off.
All, of course, are expected to play in Game 6 against Detroit tonight, mostly because that's the way it is for NHL players in June.
Injuries, exhaustion and fatigue aren't now a factor, as the Penguins proved in rallying from a 3-2 deficit in the final minute for a pulsating 4-3 victory in three overtimes Monday night in Detroit.
The Red Wings lead the best-of-seven series, three games to two.
"Physically, right now, it's more mental than anything, if you can understand what I'm saying," a sleepy-eyed Maxime Talbot said yesterday, barely eight hours after the Penguins arrived in Pittsburgh.
The translation: For all their pain, the Penguins know the Red Wings felt worse after failing to win the Cup on their home ice. Now, Detroit must play a road game it didn't want to play, in what is guaranteed to be the Penguins' final and, probably, loudest home game of the season.
And if the series goes to Game 7 on Saturday in Detroit, there are no guarantees.
Thanks to Marc-Andre Fleury's 55 saves, Talbot's tying goal with 35 seconds left in the third period, and Sykora's game-winner in the third overtime, the Penguins became the first team since the 1936 Toronto Maple Leafs to rally and win an elimination game in the Finals while trailing in the final minute.
(The Maple Leafs also accomplished the feat against Detroit.)
"This was probably one of the best games for a long time," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "And it's fun. ... And there's still a lot of hockey left to be played."
Which is exactly what the Red Wings must be hating. With the Cup a few feet from their fingers, they couldn't get the job done against a team they outscored by 7-0 in the first two games in Detroit.
"They kind of had it in their pocket, and it was going to be hard for them to get up for this game," Sykora said, referring to Game 6. "So I think it's going to be a huge game."
Just as it was Monday, the Stanley Cup will be in the house tonight, and the Penguins can't win it. But they can make sure the Red Wings don't, either.
"You could hear the crowd a little bit: 'We won the Cup, we won the Cup,' " Talbot said of the atmosphere at Joe Louis Arena immediately before he scored. "But you don't think about the Cup being in the hallway. You just think about getting the job done."
The question now is, which team has more left: the Red Wings, who outshot the Penguins by 58-32 and dominated much of Game 5, or the Penguins, who are riding a major crest of momentum.