Penguins stay alive with 3-OT victory

DETROIT " The pizza was perfect for Petr Sykora and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Deep in overtime and the season hanging in the balance, Sykora scored a power-play goal 9:57 into the third extra session to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night and send the Stanley Cup finals back to the Steel City for Game 6.

"We basically just had to keep the fluids going, get some food in you," Sykora said. "We had some pizza coming. We had some power bars and stuff like that."

Asked if the pizza was Little Caesar's, the company founded by Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, Sykora flashed a smile.

"Domino's," he said.

That delivery was right on time, but none of would have been possible without Maxime Talbot's goal with 34.3 seconds left in regulation that brought Pittsburgh into a 3-3 tie.

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. The series resumes in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

Another win there, and it will be back to Detroit for 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."

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 Chris Osgood to end the marathon that lasted 4 1/2 hours and ended at 12:46 a.m.

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

Overtime heroics are nothing new for Sykora, who ended the fourth-longest NHL playoff game in a fifth extra session on April 24, 2003, during Anaheim's run to the Stanley Cup finals. That team was coached by current Detroit bench boss Mike Babcock.

"We have a great thing going right now. We just wanted to win this game," Sykora said. "We didn't really look ahead. Now we're going back home. We've got nothing to lose. We know what we have to do and hopefully we can bring it back here to Detroit."

The Red Wings, who fell to 9-2 at home in the postseason, gave the Penguins their first loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday in Game 4 to set up their championship chances.

Early on, a Penguins' win in this one seemed likely after they scored twice in the first period and carried a 2-1 lead into the third. However, the Red Wings tied it on Pavel Datsyuk's power-play goal at 6:43 and went ahead for the first time 2:40 later when Brian Rafalski scored.

The party was on in the final minute. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was on the bench, the Pittsburgh net was empty and the seconds ticked down toward Detroit's fourth Stanley Cup championship in 11 seasons.

Talbot put the fans back into their seats when he saved the Penguins' season with a second whack of the puck at the left post in the final minute of regulation. Fleury kept them alive with a brilliant 55-save effort, including 24 in overtime.

Now, the treasured trophy will go back into its crate and head to Pennsylvania where the Red Wings will have another shot at their 11th title in franchise history.

"You were that close, and then, 'Oh, tough,"' 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."

Sykora's goal ended the fifth-longest game in Stanley Cup finals history. The second assist went to defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who missed the first two overtime periods after crashing headfirst into the end boards in the second period. Gonchar took the ice to help Pittsburgh's struggling power play.

"The game was so long. I wanted to help our guys," Gonchar said. "I started feeling better at the end of the second overtime, so I thought there was a chance. Anyway I could help, I had to come back, so the goal was wait until the power play. They put me on the ice for the power play and we scored."

That unit finally clicked on its fifth chance " including three in overtime " after converting only twice in 17 chances during the first four games.

Road teams have won 10 of the past 12 overtime games in the finals and are 15-4 since 1990.

Marian Hossa and Adam Hall put the Penguins in that position by scoring 6:04 apart in the first.

Darren Helm cut Detroit's deficit in half in the second, and the raucous home crowd was primed to carry the Red Wings home in the third. Datsyuk struck for the tying goal 22 seconds after Tyler Kennedy went off for hooking, the Red Wings' first power-play goal in four chances on the night.

By then, the chants of "We Want the Cup" filled the old rink. Penguins coach Michel Therrien called his timeout with 11:41 remaining, but it would have been helpful just 1:04 later when Rafalski put the Penguins on the brink of elimination.

Johan Franzen sent a pass out front to Rafalski, who skated in from the right point and ripped a drive through a crowd in the crease and into the net. It was Rafalski's third goal of the playoffs.

The bubbly was certainly on ice when Talbot " the extra skater on for Fleury " tied it.

Hossa swept a pass from the corner that bounced off Osgood's left leg and came to Talbot. With a second jab, he got the puck through. The Penguins bench erupted in celebration as Red Wings players skated slowly as they realized how close they had come.

The Red Wings outshot the Penguins 13-2 in the first overtime and kept the puck in the Pittsburgh end for most of it. Detroit, however, took the only penalty but killed it off without much difficulty.

Fleury knocked aside Datsyuk's drive 6 1/2 minutes into overtime and then fought off a rebound try by Valtteri Filppula. Tomas Holmstrom, who returned from a one-game absence caused by an injured hamstring, got the puck while he was alone in the slot only to have his spin-o-rama attempt kept out by the Penguins' 23-year-old netminder.

Pittsburgh's best early overtime chance came from Evgeni Malkin, the MVP finalist, who earned the first assist on the winning goal for his first point in the series. Malkin took a pass from Jarkko Ruutu as he came off the bench and fired a drive from the right circle that bounced off Osgood's arm before he gloved it.

Each team received a power play in the second overtime, and both penalties came in the offensive zone.

Pittsburgh earned its second goalie interference penalty after regulation when Dan Cleary drove hard to the net and bumped Fleury near the right post. The Red Wings failed to get a shot on Fleury after Sykora hooked Niklas Kronwall in front of the Detroit net following a scoring chance.

Fleury remained sharp and made 20 saves through two overtimes. He kept his cool even after losing sight of the puck, which popped over him and landed on top of the net.

With "The Joe" decked out in red and ready to rock, the Penguins drained the juice out of the building in the first.

Hall's goal was particularly deflating because the puck was shot into the net by Kronwall with 5:19 left in the period.

Detroit seemed poised to end the series on home ice, where the Red Wings outscored the Penguins a combined 7-0 in the first two games of the series.

But just as they did in the Western Conference finals against Dallas, the Presidents' Trophy winners dropped Game 5 with a chance to wrap things up.


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