What a ride, where do we start...
- Ryan Whitney. Often a goat for most Penguins fans. But after Sergei Gonchar was injured (while hustling back to successfully break up an odd man rush) the Penguins leaned on Whitney heavily for all three overtime periods. And he did his part. Whitney lead skaters on all teams with an amazing 50:46 of ice-time (out of a total of a total of the game-clock of 94:41) and was a +2 with 3 shots, 2 hits and 2 blocked shots.
- Three other Penguin defensemen (Rob Scuderi, Brooks Orpik, Hal Gill) played over 40 minutes picking up the slack from Gonchar's absence. Will that take it's toll on Wednesday? For now, that's a Wednesday problem...
- Marc-Andre Fleury. His detractors are pretty much silenced now. Fleury made 55 saves on 58 shots and did about everything possible to keep the Penguins in it. A team doesn't make it through 5+ periods without their goalie answering the bell. Should the Penguins lose (if it were tonight, or Wednesday or Saturday) it's nothing against MAF. He stood on his head and kept the puck out of the net on several sequences when Detroit was pressing.
- "How does that Marian Hossa deal look now in Pittsburgh?" was last week's thoughts of Capitals blog onfrozenblog.com. Well Hossa has 11 goals and 13 assists in 19 playoff games. No doubt the Pens swung for the fences, but it's paid off. We'd pull the trigger on that deal in a heartbeat. And something tells us the Hoss aint done just yet either.
- You can't tell us that Evgeni Malkin and over-time hero Petr Sykora aren't hurt. Malkin got taken down innocently and stayed down after the whistle. We're buying into Dave Molinari's theory that it might have happened when Philly's Mike Richards plastered Geno into the boards, possibly causing a rib injury. But the big boy aint doggin' it, he's tryin' his heart out. There's just not much left to dig deep into. Luckily, there's only a maximum of two more games left.
- We agreed with Coach Michel Therrien's call of a timeout halfway through the third period. We said to a buddy if we were coach we would call a TO the next whistle and sure enough Therrien did. Detroit had Pens on the ropes and even though they went on to score the tying goal soon after, the coach did his part to break the momentum and give his boys a breather. Just another example how Therrien will get no credit for the victory but discreetly played a part in keeping his finger on the pulse of the team and doing all he could to keep them in it.
- Another decision that we agreed with that Therrien made (before the goal happened, btw) was putting Maxime Talbot on the ice for the final minute of the game. He could have gone with Sykora or Gary Roberts but he put out there a guy he knew had the heart and the hands to make it happen. Talbot rewarded that trust by firing in a shot from in front of the net with :35 seconds to go to keep the dream alive. Few players out there play balls to the wall like Talbot, he just makes things happen when they have to. Good things happen to good people that try hard, and Max Talbot is proof of that.
- 2 assists and a boatload of chances for Sidney Crosby. He had a lot of jump in his step and was able to create a lot of offense. Plus he got back to break up several great chances for Detroit. As the old adage goes "your best players have to be your best players" and Crosby was definitely very dangerous all night long. He refused to lose and you have to believe a lot of that attitude bled over on the other guys, which is what captains do.
- Speaking of trying hard, Pascal Dupuis busted his ass all night long. He was great at digging up loose pucks. The first goal by Hossa was primarily assisted by Crosby but Dupuis made it possible by doing the dirty work. "Dupper" was the guy who looked the most desperate of any player out there and gave a very, very respectable effort.
- Few players have more heart than Ryan Malone. After taking a slapshot to the face opening up a nasty cut we feared for the worst. You know it's bad when the referees immediately whistle the play dead while the puck is in the open. Malone was cut bad and was in trouble. Luckily it was well under his eye (which no visor would have protected) and he was able to shake it off and nary miss a shift. Heart like that is what win championships. Malone earned a lot of respect here.
- Jordan Staal played over 34 minutes and was the only regular center (other than Adam Hall) to break 50% in faceoffs. Staal had 3 takeaways to 0 giveaways and played 3:40 of short-handed icetime. Did we mention he's 19 years old? What a solid, solid player.
As you've noticed, we've mentioned nearly every player in the lineup. Because it's a team effort when you win a Stanley Cup Final game in triple overtime. The boys get a well deserved day off and we'll see if there's anything left in the tank for Game 6. Sergei Gonchar told NBC that he'd "absolutely" be in there but we wonder how banged up he might be. He took a nasty spill into the wall and if we put a speculating cap on that could very well be a separated/dislocated shoulder. And the rest of the D is no doubt tired from picking up the Sarge's slack. But it's a team and when one falls the rest step up. That's what happened tonight. That's all we need. One game at a time, boys, let's go back home and win there.
14 down, 2 more to go.....