The Pittsburgh Penguins were never opposed to the idea of the Stanley Cup being presented in Detroit. They just preferred that it would be after Game 7.
Only this time, they'll have a chance to claim it themselves.
It was a night of dramatic twists and memorable turns, none more unlikely than the emergence of Sykora as the overtime hero. Largely ineffective for all but the final moments of the fifth-longest game in Finals history, Sykora came through just 36 seconds into a four-minute power play created when a tired
And so the bubbly was taken off ice, the men with the white gloves packed away the silver mug for a flight to Pittsburgh and the throngs of Detroit faithful went home bitterly disappointed. It was an amazing turn of events for a game that the Red Wings appeared to have salted away with another dominant third-period performance. That is until
It was a thrilling conclusion for a contest that the Penguins controlled early and then frittered away. Taking their first two-goal lead of the series on markers by
But even as the wobbly Wings found their footing early in the second, Pittsburgh's savior began asserting himself as a player intent on changing the course of the series.
Not the Kid (
At that point, Fleury wasn't the last defense. He was the only defense.
And his play justified whatever you spent on your DVR. These were stops that had to be seen again to be believed. Back-to-back saves on Datsyuk and
And if it weren't for stops like the instant-classic, cross-crease pad block late in the third on
The Pens showed plenty of grit, and just enough offensive touch, in denying Detroit its party. But they also came to a conclusion. Even if much of their gunpowder weren't wet, they'd still need stellar netminding from Fleury to match up with the experience and precision of the Red Wings. Having seen what he has to offer, the guys in that room have to be feeling pretty good about the next contest.
The Pens still have issues, including not shooting the puck often enough, failing to generate any kind of consistent presence in front of Osgood and, Sykora's winner notwithstanding, negligible production from their second line.
But they got the one shot they wanted most, and that comes on Wednesday night.
After losing Game 4 at home, the chances of coming back from a 3-1 series deficit looked pretty grim.
But coming back from down 3-2? The Pens will take those odds.