DETROIT - Bad start; worse finish.
That pretty much sums up the Detroit Red Wings’ evening.
With the Wings poised to win the Stanley Cup, their celebration was put on hold by a pesky Pittsburgh team. The Penguins, quite clearly, are not ready to call it a season.
With the enthusiastic crowd inside the Joe Louis Arena chanting, “We want the Cup! We want the Cup!” the Penguins forced overtime at 19:25 of the third period. This is the same team that took a 2-0 lead in the first period, only to watch the Red Wings take over and control the majority of the second and third frames.
Detroit outshot Pittsburgh 12-7 in the second period, 14-4 in the third and 13-2 in the first overtime period en route to a 58-32 overall count.
But in an almost strange way, it was the Penguins that appeared to be gathering strength the longer the night went on. And it became abundantly clear Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was not going down without a fight. He was unquestionably the game’s No. 1 star.
“We didn’t have a good first period,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “Whether that’s focusing on the outcome rather than the process, I’m not sure.”
Babcock was not visibly upset, although that tends to be the way he acts after a loss. Which, for the record, is a good thing. It doesn’t add pressure to his players who already know they let one get away.
“The hardest part about a game like that is the mental part, not the physical part,” Babcock said. “The mind drives the body. Your body can keep going. It’s the mental part. I think it’s natural to feel bad for yourself for a bit, but it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s not supposed to be busy.”
Asked what he said to his players – you know, the rah-rah speech to make them forget the loss – Babcock said squat. To his players, that is.
“I don’t talk after we win and I don’t talk after we lose; so I don’t have to think about something to say,” Babcock said. “I’ll deal with that tomorrow.”
That said, Babcock did speak with Nicklas Lidstrom and Kris Draper about the plans for Tuesday and told them to keep their chins up.
“They are big boys,” Babcock said. “They understand this. We have a game, that’s all there is to it. We’ll have an optional (practice) and the guys can go right to the flight. We just have to ask ourselves how bad do we want to win?
“I think the resolve of our group is real good and the determination is real good. It’s not like we didn’t have good opportunities. When you do good things, good things happen. Just do good things again.”
• Detroit’s most dangerous player in the game was Mikael Samuelsson, the same guy who scored two goals in Game 1. Samuelsson had six shots on the night, one fewer than teammate Henrik Zetterberg, and will probably never forget the toe save Fleury made on him at 17 minutes of the second period.
• Pittsburgh’s best skater was Marian Hossa. I must admit I have learned a great deal about this guy in the final. His is the consummate two-way player and I must take back what I said about him earlier, that he couldn’t lead a team. He is indeed a frontline star and will cash in big-time this summer as an unrestricted free agent. Are you listening Vancouver?
• Ryan Malone’s nose knows the Stanley Cup final. He broke it in Game 1 when he was belted by Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall and Monday he took a Hal Gill slap shot in the face, re-injuring the honker.
“I saw it coming all the way,” Malone told The Hockey News. “I think it was flat when it hit me – thank heavens.”
The Hockey News Game 5 Three Stars
1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh
2. Mikael Samuelsson, Detroit
3. Petr Sykora, Pittsburgh
THN senior writer Mike Brophy is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily reports until a champion is crowned. To read his other entries, click HERE.
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