The Detroit Red Wings were agonisingly close from Stanley Cup glory, 35 seconds from glory to be precise.
|Penguins fight on: Gary Roberts, centre, |
celebrates after Adam Hall scores [AFP]
That's when a player no one expected to be on the ice struck for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Three overtimes later, with 23-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury stopping everything the Red Wings shot at him, a goal shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday sent the series back to Pittsburgh, and maybe put a shred of doubt into the minds of those in Hockeytown.
"Here we go again,'' Red Wings forward Kris Draper said Tuesday after returning to Pittsburgh.
"We would have loved to have been able to wrap things up, but that wasn't the case. We've got another crack at it.
"We're still up 3-2 in the series and we have another opportunity to close Pittsburgh out.''
After their 4-3 win prevented the Red Wings from winning a fourth NHL championship in 11 seasons, the Penguins hope to get the Igloo rocking Wednesday night for Game 6.
Detroit was 34.3 seconds away from finishing off the Penguins on Monday night when Maxime Talbot came out of nowhere to score the tying goal.
Fleury, who had already played an exceptional game, was on the bench for an extra attacker.
Surprisingly, that man was Talbot, who hadn't served that role this season.
Penguins coach Michel Therrien went with a hunch and it paid off.
On and on the game went.
Most of the action was tilted toward the Penguins end, but Fleury played his own game of "Can you top this?'' The goaltender made 24 saves after regulation, four fewer than Red Wings counterpart Chris Osgood made in the entire game, and an astounding 55 overall in the fifth-longest game in finals history.
When Petr Sykora's goal finally ended it midway through the third time, scoring at a time when NBC should have been well into ``Late Night With Conan O'Brien'' on the East Coast, the tired and injured Penguins tried to muster up the energy to celebrate their survival and get ready for another elimination game.
"They kind of had it in their pocket, and it is going to be hard for them to get up for the game, too," Sykora said.
"The preparation is going to be the same for us.
"I can't wait for tomorrow night because the building's going to be really loud here."