The Detroit Red Wings insisted yesterday they lost little sleep after their Stanley Cup dreams came up 35 seconds short before a gut-wrenching triple overtime 4-3 defeat by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Leading the best-of-seven series 3-1 and clinging to a 3-2 lead with the final minute of Game Five ticking down on Monday, the Stanley Cup had been polished and the champagne put on ice.
But just as the capacity crowd at the Joe Louis arena was getting ready to celebrate, the Penguins’ Maxime Talbot spoiled the party by scoring with just 35 seconds remaining in regulation to push the game into overtime.
Petr Sykora then delivered the knockout blow deep into the third overtime, sending the two teams back to Pittsburgh for Game Six tonight with the Detroit lead sliced to 3-2.
“It’s nice to be close to it (the Stanley Cup),” Detroit coach Mike Babcock told reporters yesterday. “Be nicer to have it.
“You never expect it to be easy. You knew it was going to be a battle, and it is.
“I think the disappointment phase ends about 15 minutes when you’re out of the room.
“When you get up in the morning, the sun gets up, and so do we and we’re up 3-2, let’s play.”
If there was any disappointment in coming so close to their goal in the Detroit dressing room it was replaced by confidence by the time the Red Wings arrived in Steeltown.
The Wings have won all three of their previous playoff series on the road this season and say they would have no problem clinching the Stanley Cup at the Igloo.
Stanley Cup history also remains firmly on Detroit’s side. Only once has a team erased a 3-1 deficit to claim the Cup and that was the Toronto Maple Leafs 66 years ago.
The battered Penguins have given themselves a tough act to follow, the triple overtime thriller being hailed as one of the Stanley Cup finals greatest games.
A Game Six win would almost certainly require another Herculean effort, with several key players nursing painful injuries.
Winger Ryan Malone was hit with a slap shot in the face, breaking his nose for the second time in the playoffs while defenseman Sergei Gonchar crashed heavily into boards but both were back on the ice for the final overtime period.
Pittsburgh expects all hands on deck tonight as they try to force a winner-take-all Game Seven back in Detroit on Saturday.
“It was definitely a tough one last night but we’re just happy to really still be playing,” said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby. “I think any time you go through something like that, come out with a win, to see the way everyone kept battling and didn’t give up, it certainly means a lot to everyone.
“We’re still here, still battling, and we still have an opportunity.”
Pens, Wings ready to go
The Detroit Red Wings insisted yesterday they lost little sleep aftertheir Stanley Cup dreams came up 35 seconds short before agut-wrenching triple overtime 4-3 defeat by the Pittsburgh Penguins.