Pittsburgh keep series alive

Pittsburgh defeat Detroit to send the Stanley Cup battle to Game Six.

    Jordan Staal, centre, of the Pittsburgh Penguins
    charges ahead [AFP] 
    Pittsburgh spoiled the party plans of the Detroit Red Wings when Maxime Talbot scored with 35 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and Petr Sykora notched the winner 9:57 into the third extra session to lift the Penguins over Detroit 4-3 in Game 5 and send the NHL finals back to the Igloo.

    Suddenly, it doesn't seem certain that the Red Wings will be hoisting the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in 11 seasons or sipping and spraying champagne.

    "We're disappointed right now,'' Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.

    "But we've got to be ready to go.''

    If the Red Wings don't bounce back to win Game 6 on Wednesday on the road, the heat will be on the NHL's top-seeded team at home in Game 7 on Saturday.

    "If we can come up with the win, it's going to be a lot of pressure on them,'' Sykora said.

    "But you just worry about the game on Wednesday, and hopefully we can get it.''

    Historic battle

    Both teams will likely stay off their skates on Tuesday after playing the fifth-longest game in Stanley Cup history.

    It took nearly 110 minutes on the scoreboard to decide it and 4 hours, 15 minutes off the clock.

    Even 20-year-old superstar Sidney Crosby was tired.

    "My legs didn't feel very good, to be honest with you,'' Crosby said.

    "(The rink) doesn't feel like 200 feet all the way down. It feels more like a football field.

    "Mentally, it's tough, but you remind yourself of how hard you've worked to get to this opportunity,'' he added.

    "You just dig deep and hope it works out. Obviously, it's nice to be on the winning side of it.''

    No doubt.

    The Red Wings were dragging in their dressing room.

    "It's physically draining,'' Brian Rafalski said.

    Undaunted with the Stanley Cup inside Joe Louis Arena, the Penguins kept the trophy out of the hands of the Red Wings for at least a few days.

    They couldn't have done it, Crosby said, without their goaltender.

    "The big answer for us was Marc-Andre Fleury,'' Crosby said.

    "He was the difference. He held us in there, allowed us to keep battling and holding on.''

    Goal-keeping heroics

    Fleury had a brilliant 55-save effort, including 13 in the first overtime and 11 more in the next two. One of his best saves came with about 3 minutes left in the second period when his kick save denied Mikael Samuelsson at the end of an odd-man rush.

    "I just tried to get something over there,'' Fleury said. "I got my toe and made the save.''

    Chris Osgood, meanwhile, might be haunted by a puck he failed to smother that ended up behind him.

    With the Cup at the ready and bottles of the bubbly on ice, Talbot stuffed his own rebound past Osgood with 35 seconds left in regulation to send the 3-all game into overtime.

    "You were that close, and then, 'Oh, tough,''' Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

    "I think it's natural to feel bad for us for a bit, and feel bad for yourself. But it's the Stanley Cup playoffs. It's not supposed to be easy.''

    Early morning victory

    The Penguins took advantage of an opportunity to extend the series midway through the third overtime, which carried the game almost to 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

    With Jiri Hudler serving a 4-minute penalty for high-sticking Rob Scuderi and causing a cut, Sykora wound up in the right circle and ripped a drive past Osgood to end the marathon on his only shot on goal.

    "I was just praying for blood,'' Scuderi said.

    Overtime stardom is nothing new for Sykora, who ended the fourth-longest NHL playoff game in a fifth overtime in April 2003, during Anaheim's run to the Stanley Cup finals.

    That team was coached by Babcock.

    "Yeah, I totally remember that game,'' Sykora said. "It was kind of a similar game. Nothing was really going for me.''

    The Red Wings, who lost for just the second time in 11 playoff games at home, gave the Penguins their first loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday in Game 4 to set up their championship chances.

    Even though Detroit has two games to win one, Sergei Gonchar likes Pittsburgh's chances.

    "We don't have anything to lose,'' Gonchar said. "Hopefully we can bring it back to Detroit.''

    SOURCE: Agencies


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