Migrated from ESPN.com blog on Feb. 2, 2011
Originally published June 3, 2008
Last night started out innocently enough. I donned the Mario Lemieux jersey that’s been in my possession since I was nine years old, poured myself a glass of wine, and sat down to watch game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
I figured this one was going to be a doozy, considering the Pens were backed into a “do or die” situation. I expected an evening of heavy hits, scuffles, rocket shots, and goalies doing moves most gymnasts would envy.
With the Pens up 2-1 at the end of the second period, I was just praying they could hang on to the lead and force a game 6 back in Pittsburgh. I barely blinked and suddenly it was 3-2 Detroit.
But it wasn’t those goals that made this game such a jaw-dropping affair. It was what happened with barely 30 seconds left in the game. By then, I was preparing to accept the celebration that would be happening soon. I flinched when I thought about Detroit raising the cup, but I couldn’t argue that they hadn’t fought hard for it. And out of the corner of my eye, I saw Max Talbot. There he was, on the left side of Chris Osgood, shuffling his feet almost nervously and watching for any sign of the puck. It finally arrived. “Shoot it! Shoot it!” I screamed, while my dog looked at me with a confused expression. The first attempt bounced back at him and my heart sank. In the very same second, Talbot batted it past the line and into the left corner of Chris Osgood’s goal. I think I almost blacked out.
Would it be the happy 1996 game vs. the Capitals where Petr Nedved put it to bed in quadruple overtime? Would it be the demoralizing 2000 game vs. the Flyers where Keith Primeau made a shot in quintuple overtime? I didn’t even consider the thought of it being short. Neither team was ready to give up a goal. It took 49 minutes and 57 seconds. By that time, the red on the Red Wings’ jerseys was bleeding into the white, Fleury and Osgood looked as though they were in trances, the bruise Ryan Malone sustained from a shot to the face during the third period was rainbow colored, and the legs of most of the players were jiggling with exhaustion. I can only imagine that they were running on pure adrenaline.
It was a different Petr who was the hero this time. This was the Petr Sykora that said jokingly to the NBC broadcasters in between overtime periods, “Guys, I’m just going to get one, so just don’t worry about the game. I’m going to get a goal.” With that final shot, Sykora sent the Cup back to it’s case and the series back home to the Mellon Arena. Intense. Incredible. And I absolutely cannot wait for Wednesday night. Go Pens!!!