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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Game 5: Revitalization -- Pittsburgh wins 4-3 (3 OT)

By now, I'm really late to the party in writing on this game. Of course, my head has just cleared up enough today, the day of Game 6, to even think of putting anything together about Game 5. I'm just going to recap it because the fellow bloggers and writers have all covered this at great extent that me adding anything more right now is either stealing words or piling on. I'm not here to do either of those things.

Simply an incredible game from top to bottom. You had Detroit laying a dinosaur-sized egg in the first period. Marian Hossa continued his great play in the Finals snapping a wrist-shot by Chris Osgood making it 1-0 halfway into the period.

The circus of boneheadedness continued Nick Kronwall doing his best to bail out his goalie in front but instead fired one off of Adam Hall's skate and into the net to help Pittsburgh gain a 2-0 advantage after just the first 20 minutes.

Call it nerves, call it bad play, call it every other term you can dream up that functions negatively for the Red Wings and they did it in that first period - easily the worst hockey seen out of them all playoffs.

Come second and third period time, you could sense a swing in the temper of the game. No, not temper as in anger - just the flow and the feel - a tone set early in the second by Darren Helm who got the Wings on the board.

This change in momentum carried through to the third period when Pavel Datsyuk tied the game on a tip-in power play marker which was then quickly followed by a rebounded slap shot rip from Brian Rafalski to make it 3-2 Detroit with about 10 minutes remaining in the period.

Detroit continued buzzing the net with shots and keeping Pittsburgh hemmed in their own end - even after Michel Therrien called a timeout to relieve some of the pressure from his team. After all, now the crowd at the sold-out Joe Louis Arena in Detroit was going absolutely ape on every opportunity. They could smell the end of the season and the Stanley Cup coming.

Time ticks away and the chances continue to mount for Detroit. The clock rolls under two minutes. Under one minute and finally Marc-Andre Fleury hits the bench for the extra skater. Pittsburgh pushes once into the Detroit end and gets it booted out of the zone and onto the stick of Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg, however, is unable to get a shot away past the red line thanks to the always falling back Pittsburgh defensemen.

The Pens regain the zone, they get the puck to the left of Chris Osgood when Marian Hossa throws one off of the goalie, the puck bounces back out to the charging Max Talbot who stuffs it past a prone Osgood and a defense that had not collapsed down to tie the game at three with 34.3 seconds remaining.

Just simply incredible.

The script for overtime didn't hold like scripts in previous playoffs. The spurts of end-to-end action seemed to last longer than in past years. In the past, the fatigue would seemingly set in sooner, leading to the games becoming dump-and-chase contests waiting to see who would make a mistake. It didn't really happen here.

The game-winning marker didn't happen early in a period. There were penalties called during the two-and-a-half overtimes, three on Detroit and one on Pittsburgh, the final of which was the obvious and had-to-be-made double-minor call on Jiri Hudler for a high-stick that drew blood halfway into the third overtime period. Knowing they had four minutes to work with the extra man, Pittsburgh settled in quickly and Petr Sykora scored the game-winner at 9:57 of the third overtime.

It would be very easy to make a case on this game that Detroit got the short end of the stick, especially with the two minor penalties for goalie interference they had drawn. If Detroit had not forgotten how to play hockey the right way in the first period, highway robbery arguments would likely continue to spin on today. While it doesn't make it right that Paul Devorski and Dan O'Halloran punished Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary for just trying to take the puck hard to the net, it doesn't leave Detroit any room to make excuses because, after all, Detroit made the game more difficult on themselves after just one period of play.

We're certainly not going to play the "What if?" game here, but its awfully tough to think that there would be a game tonight if Detroit did what they had been doing all playoffs long in just that first 20 minutes.

With all that said, however, all the credit in the world belongs to Marc-Andre Fleury who stopped 55 shots in all and kept the game from being a blowout the other way. Detroit had many great chances through the third period and in each overtime period as well and still came away with the loss all in part to the play of Fleury who bailed out his injured and porous defense.

It will be very interesting to see how both teams respond from this game tonight. I know that conventional thought is that Pittsburgh got their act together finally and got over the hump and now they're in a very dangerous position. This same school of thought also provides that Detroit is on the ropes, and that the Penguins are in their head and that the pressure of the series is all on the Wings and that the Pens have "nothing to lose."

All of it, while swimming in some bits of truth, is nonsense. Tonight is another game. The message stays the same, the game plans stay the same:

Score first, pressure hard, force mistakes and don't take penalties.

Simple, right? I guess that's why they play the games.


SIDE NOTE: A lot of news has come out of late surrounding one of the earlier subjects of this blog, Jim Balsillie - the crazy Canadian Bl(Cr)ackberry inventor and billionaire who desperately wants to own an NHL team. I'm assuming more news about this is going to filter out while the Finals is going on, and considering the latest developments with "Boots" Del Biaggio being Federally investigated, this warrants a lot of attention.

I cannot fathom giving up attention to the Finals in favor of what may or may not be related stories, but suffice to say, I think this is big. Once the Finals are wrapped up and over with, I'll be digging into this one in a big way. Here's the only teaser you get for this for now, the ones getting screwed in the deal are Canadian hockey fans in southern Ontario and elsewhere in the provinces.

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