Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Cup Finals: Game 5

What a game! The Penguins pull off a huge win to force the series back to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. Paced by nearly flawless goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins were able to win it in triple overtime.

The game started out well in the Penguins favor. They were generating lots of turnovers that led to great scoring chances. Detroit were on their heels for most of the first period. A great shot by Hossa and a fortuitous bounce off a power move from game 3 hero Adam Hall had the Penguins leading 2-0 after the first frame.

Period two saw the Penguins continue winning the battles for loose pucks, but Detroit started to get their game together. Their goal from Darren Helm gave the Wings some life, but the team still trailed 2-1 by the end of the period.

I was never happy with Mike Babcock being nominated for the Jack Adams trophy. There are other guys with less talented teams that had good records this year, dramatic turnarounds from last year (see: Philadelphia Flyers), and coaches that had to deal with losing multiple star players (see: Pittsburgh). The Wings are a talented, experienced bunch of guys that look like they could win a game with a mannequin behind the bench. But Babcock must've said the right things in the locker room because the Wings dominated the 3rd period like they did the first two games of the series. Detroit tied the game up on a nice goal by Datsyuk and went ahead on a goal by Brian Rafalski. The game appeared over until grinder Max Talbot scored for Pittsburgh with 33 seconds left.

This felt to me like a game that could go four overtimes...and I wasn't far off. Detroit continued their strong play into the extra time, but Fleury held his ground and kept the team in it. Multiple rushes and close chances by both teams made this game one for the history books. Peter Sykora, owner of two previous OT winners, scored on a 4-minute double minor assessed to Jiri Hudler to send the series back to Pittsburgh and a game 6.

Will the Penguins have the momentum to push the Finals to a game 7? Will their youth be an advantage in recovering from the nearly two full games played last night? Or will Detroit clamp down again and close the series out?

I know I called Detroit in six. but multiple-OT games seem to swing the momentum greatly in Stanley Cup playoff games. I remember the Penguins/Capitals 4 OT game in 1996 (won by the Pens, who won the series) and the Penguins/Flyers 5 OT game in 2000 (won by the Flyers, who won the series) as great examples this. Last night's Pittsburgh win was certainly a game changer by any definition of the word.

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