In the past few days leading up to tonight's Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals, Disco Dan Bylsma had his usual calm, cool, and collective attitude on display in every press conference he did.
He talked about the Pittsburgh Penguins beating the Detroit Red Wings in Game Six.
He didn't talk about the Penguins preventing the Red Wings from winning the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh, he talked about the Penguins winning one game in order to be in a position to win the Cup themselves.
The Penguins began the 2008-09 season on Oct. 4 in Stockholm, Sweden.
Just 105 games later, one win stands between fulfilling a dream and suffering yet another devastating defeat.
It doesn't get any bigger than Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, but you don't need me to tell you that.
Coming off of an embarrassing loss in Game Five, the Pittsburgh Penguins looked to a familiar source for an extra boost in Game Six.
There were 17,132 rabid fans filling the seats of the ageless Igloo, and they made their presence known early and often tonight.
The Pittsburgh Penguins weren't playing to prevent the Detroit Red Wings from winning, they were playing to win themselves.
The Pens dominated play in the first 20 minutes, outshooting the Wings 12 to three, but came out of the opening frame with nothing to show for their effort on the scoreboard.
You could tell that the Penguins were playing like they had nothing to lose, and really, they didn't.
Jordan Staal finally rewarded his team for their valiant efforts in the opening minute of the second period.
Rob Scuderi moved the puck to the blue line where Tyler Kennedy made a nice play on the wall to chip the puck into open ice.
Staal picked up the biscuit and generated a two-on-one with Matt Cooke after beating a Red Wing in the neutral zone.
Staal later said of his decision to decline on a pass attempt: "I'm not a passer, I'm a shooter."
A shooter he was, as Staal's initial attempt was stopped by Osjoke, but the big man stayed with his shot and banged home the rebound to put the Pens on top 1-0.
After the goal, the Wings pushed hard, but Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi led the Penguins' defensive corps to one of the best shutdown performances in recent memory.
The Wings came out strong again to open the third period, but Marc-Andre Fleury came up with a couple of big saves to preserve the lead.
Ruslan Fedotenko, who was set up by Evgeni Malkin at least four times in a quality scoring chance situation in the game, was not discouraged by his inability to find the back of the net.
Tank kept a puck alive in the offensive zone and Max Talbot made a nifty play behind the net to reverse the puck to a wide open Tyler Kennedy.
TK walked out in front of the net and took a couple of whacks at the puck before beating Osjoke on the glove side to put the Pens ahead by two goals.
Just three minutes later Kris Draper put a puck behind Fleury to pull the Wings within one.
The performance of the Pittsburgh Penguins, led by Fleury, Scuderi, and Orpik, in the final 12 minutes of regulation should have its own bridge named after it in Pittsburgh.
As the Stanley Cup was being removed from its case and polished in the recesses of Old Lady Mellon, Orpik was demolishing anything in a white jersey in the defensive zone.
Scuderi made more saves down the stretch than Fleury did, in particular two huge saves in the final minute of the game when he dropped to one knee in the crease to prevent the puck from finding the back of the net.
Go ahead and claim that Scuds closed his hand on the puck in the crease in the third period. Then watch the replay. Then think back to when Henrik Zetterberg actually did close his hand on the puck in the crease twice in Game Two.
The Penguins held on for the victory, and held on to their hopes of winning their first Stanley Cup since 1992.
Ladies and gentlemen, for the last time in the Mellon Arena in the 2008-09 season, Elvis has just left the building.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 2 Detroit 1
- There aren't enough words in the English language to describe Rob Scuderi's performance in this game. Truly a season saving effort by Scuds.
- It was good to see Petr Sykora back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch since Game Two of the Caps' series. Sykie didn't get on the score sheet, but he did lay horizontally across the ice to block a shot in the second period in the midst of the Wings' most sustained attack of the game.
- There wasn't a player in a Penguins' uniform who didn't play 110 percent tonight.
- Chris Osgood is a joke. How a goaltender is allowed to stop play for well over two minutes after an icing call to "have his helmet adjusted" by the equipment manager on the bench is unreal.
- The Pens' third line was their best line for all 60 minutes tonight. When that happens, you are going to win hockey games.
- Game Seven is set for Friday night at 8:00 in Joketown. All the ups and downs this season has thrown our way as fans will culminate at 8:20 p.m. when some dork throws a dead octopus on the ice and the puck is dropped at the Joe.
After Game Four, the world was behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After Game Five, not many people outside of Pittsburgh were giving the Penguins a snowball's chance in hell at winning this series.
After Game Six, none of those people matter anymore.
Sixty minutes remain in the Penguins' season, that's all that matters.
There are no guarantees that after those 60 minutes you won't experience that same empty feeling you experienced just over a year ago when you watched the Stanley Cup grace the Mellon Arena ice with its presence for the first time in history, and then you watched it being awarded to the Detroit Red Wings.
There are also no guarantees that after those 60 minutes you won't be rejoicing in what is likely to be the biggest victory you have ever witnessed as a sports fan.
As Sidney Crosby said after Game Six, "Last year at this time, our season was already over."
Let's Go Pens
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