Posted on June 3, 2008 02:27 AM | Permalink
Petr Sykora's Psychic Hotline is now open for business.
Sykora told a United States hockey broadcaster during overtime he would score the winner for his Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night. On Tuesday morning, his prediction came true, and Pittsburgh danced out of Joe Louis Arena with a 4-3 triple-overtime victory, the fifth-longest Stanley Cup final game in history.
It was an amazing finish to an incredible game, and now the Cup final moves back to the Steel City for a Game 6 Wednesday night.
"I hadn't been doing much, but I felt I was starting to get some chances, and I finally got one to go in," said Sykora, whose goal was his first of the series.
Sykora did not seem to be very Nostradamus-like after his prediction, when he was called for hooking Niklas Kronwall shortly after he made it, putting Detroit on the power play in the second OT. But the Penguins did a great job of killing the penalty, and Pittsburgh kept hanging in there until the Penguins got the break of the night, when Jiri Hudler clipped defenceman Rob Scuderi with his stick, drawing a four-minute minor.
Then, Sergei Gonchar, who seemed lost for the night with an undisclosed injury, came back like Lazarus and manned the power play. Not long after, the puck was in the net.
Sykora has always been one of the NHL's better sharpshooters, and he beat Chris Osgood from near the right circle.
"We get to live another day, just another game. And I think if you can come up with the win, it's going to be a lot of pressure on them," Sykora said. "But if you just worry about the game on Wednesday and hopefully we can get that win. And about the (called) shot, just between the periods, something stupid I said: Just guys, I'm just going to get one. So just don't worry about the game. I'm going to get a goal.
"And luckily, I got a great pass from Geno. I missed it one time before, probably by 20 feet. And it was kind of a lucky play. It hit the ref and went behind the net and Geno got it, made a beautiful pass. I tried to put it upstairs, and the puck went in."
Sykora will get all the headlines, but the real story of the game for Pittsburgh was goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He was brilliant, especially in the late stages of regulation and the first overtime, when the Detroit pressure was relentless.
"He was sensational," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.
Fleury robbed Mikael Samuelsson on a 2-on-1 one-timer in regulation, and kicked aside Tomas Holmstrom's point-blank backhander early in the first OT. The Penguins looked ready to quit after Brian Rafalski's tiebreaking goal midway through the third, but Fleury wasn't one of them.
The other big story for the Penguins was Max Talbot's tying goal in the final minute of regulation. Johan Franzen's turnover along the wall kept the puck in the Pittsburgh zone, otherwise the game is probably over. The puck came to Talbot down low, and he jammed it past Osgood, who misread the play and was too far to the other side as Talbot stuck home his own rebound.
"I wasn't surprised (he was out there)," Crosby said. "I mean, he's a guy who is going to create space and work hard and dig pucks out. But he's a warrior. I mean, 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 Geno, 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. So that's where the goals are scored in the playoffs, and that was a big one for us."
The Penguins became the first team in more than 70 years and just the second team ever to escape elimination in the final by scoring in the final minute The only other team to do so was the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Game 3 of the 1936 final against Detroit. The Red Wings led the best-of-five series 2-0 and led the game 3-2 when Toronto's Pep Kelly scored at 19:19 of the third period to tie the score at 3-3. The Maple Leafs went on to win the game in overtime, but lost the next game, and the series, to the Red Wings.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock, whose team has failed in the last two Game 5 closeout games at home, lamented a bad first period more than anything.
"I thought we had every opportunity to win the game, obviously. And saying that, though, we started slow," Babcock said. "I thought we were really nervous. We never made a play in the first period, for whatever reason.
And whether that's focusing on outcome rather than just process and doing what you always do. You know, we really battled our way back, we had every opportunity. And we had it twice, one at the red line and one on the half wall. And we didn't get it deep, and we never got it out. In the end, they scored, and we never scored on our chances in overtime. So that's the game."
- Johan Franzen, not Henrik Zetterberg, should have been called for goalie interference in OT, kicking at a gloved puck with the open blade of his skate. It not only was illegal, it was dangerous. Zetterberg was penalized on a more incidental play instead, after hitting Fleury in the crease. Franzen was a goat on the Penguins' tying goal in the final minute of regulation, turning the puck over along the wall.
- Crosby wasn't very good in the game. His passing, especially in the overtimes, wasn't up to par. But Sid the Kid showed himself to be a true gamer in the series. A good example of that was a great diving poke check in the second OT, in his own zone. And, he did get an assist on the tying goal in the final minute.
- Tyler Kennedy has looked nervous the whole series for the Penguins, and his penalty in the third period led to Detroit's tying goal. He also muffed a great chance on a 2-on-1 in the first OT.
- Daniel Cleary, who played a fine Game 5 for Detroit, still is hoping to become the first Newfoundland native to win a Stanley Cup.
- Gonchar said after the game he expects to play in Game 6. He slid hard into the boards trying to break up an odd-man rush.