The Pittsburgh Penguins trailed the Detroit Red Wings by three goals with just under 15 minutes remaining in regulation on Tuesday night. The VERSUS commentators wrote the Penguins off, Detroit coach Mike Babcock wrote the Penguins off, even all 36 Red Wing fans in attendance wrote the Penguins off.
Led by an Evgeni Malkin power play goal and three goals in 11 minutes from Jordan Staal, the Pens forced the game into overtime, where Ruslan Fedotenko capped off the comeback with the game winning goal.
The two teams felt each other out early in the game, with neither taking any chances for fear of making a mistake. A mistake wouldn't be needed for Sidney Crosby to put the Penguins on the scoreboard first.
Crosby scored the game's first goal at 4:34 in the first period on an unreal redirection of a Miroslav Satan pass in front of the net. Crosby elevated the puck about three feet off the ice, which was more than enough to put it over the shoulder of Chris Midget.
Seconds after the Crosby tally, Johan Franzen was called for hooking and the Pens went on the power play.
Detroit was able to kill the penalty, and Pittsburgh's momentum. Benedict Arnold had a solid two-on-one shorthanded chance, but Alex Goligoski made his first and last good play of the game to block Jokessa's shot attempt.
After the penalty kill, it was all Wings for the rest of the period. Darren McCarty tied the game at one, and Tomas Holmstrom deflected in a Lidstrom slap shot to give the Wings a 2-1 advantage heading into the first intermission.
Johan Franzen scored a quick goal to open the second period, extending the Wings' lead to two goals. The Horse or whatever his nickname is returned to the lineup tonight after missing the previous five contests.
Since being promoted to first line duties, Max Talbot has been playing some solid hockey. He was once again rewarded for his efforts with a goal at the 4:14 mark in the second.
Petr Sykora made the goal happen by taking the puck behind the net and throwing it to the front of the cage. Talbot drove hard to the crease and the puck deflected into the net off of Mad Max's skate. 3-2 Wings.
Much like the Wings did after turning the tide in the first period, they dominated the last half of the second period.
Pavel Datsyuk scored a goal that none of the 36 fans at Joke Louis Arena have seen yet, and Henrik Zetterjoke added another to give the Wings a commanding 5-2 lead by the 5:03 mark of the third period.
If the Penguins were going to have a chance in this game, they had to score quickly. They got their chance when Andreas Lilja and "The Horse" were sent to the box, giving the Pens a two man advantage.
The Pens worked the puck around, looking for the perfect shot. After coming up empty on the first half of the power play, Michel Therrien called a timeout to rest his troops and Mike Yeo got out the white board.
After the timeout, the Penguins executed their game plan to perfection. Satan got the puck on the half-wall and kicked it back to the point to Malkin. Mike Zigomanis screened Osjoke and Gino unleashed a wrist shot that induced several consecutive heart attacks for Mike Emrick: 5-3 Wings.
The Penguins' third line consisted of some arrangement of Jordan Staal, Mike Zigomanis, Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, and Ruslan Fedotenko during tonight's game. All five players turned in impressive performances.
At 8:09 of the third, Staal found a loose puck in front of the net and snuck it past Osjoke to pull the Pens to within one goal.
You could feel a glorious comeback on the horizon. You were waiting to jump up off of your coach and flip the bird to Mike Babcock through your television screen.
Then, all of a sudden, Jiri "Where the" Hudler "At" seemingly ended the Pens' comeback when he beat Marc Andre Fleury on a wide open look at the net from the left point.
It was a terrible goal. The puck barely trickled in through the sixth-hole of Fleury. Too bad the score sheet doesn't include pictures.
For the next five minutes, the Penguins failed to break through the Red Wing trap. Michel Therrien was juggling lines, looking for the perfect combination.
He found it in a familiar place when the Kennedy-Staal-Cooke line hit the ice. Cooke demolished a Red Wing, picked up the loose puck and kicked it to Kris Letang at the point. Letang fired a shot at the net, which was blocked. Staal once again picked up the trash and got the loose puck behind Osjoke for his second goal of the game.
Just like that, with four minutes remaining in regulation, the Pens had life, now only down by one (6-5). The next four minutes would show Therrien if the 2008-09 version of the Penguins had the same heart that the previous year's version did.
The Penguins wouldn't disappoint. Malkin attempted to put the puck on the net, but it was blocked by Nicklas Lidstrom in front. When you saw number 11 in front of the net, you almost knew he was going to shoot the puck over the goal or into the seats; at least no one would be injured in the under-populated Joke Louis Arena.
Staal proved you, and me, wrong when he buried his third goal of the night, securing his second career hat trick and forcing the game into overtime.
With four seconds left in regulation, Brian Rafalski decided to blatantly hook Satan. The Pens would have a four-on-three advantage in overtime.
Pittsburgh's power play fell short to open the overtime, and the Wings looked to have swayed the momentum after killing the penalty.
Selke Trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk got a little taste of his own medicine when Staal picked his pocket at the blue line as Datsjoke was exiting his defensive zone.
The Penguins had a two-on-one, and Staal had the puck. Ruslan Fedotenko, who saw just 12 minutes of ice time in the game, bolted down the right wing opposite Staal.
Staal fed a perfect pass cross-ice to Fedotenko, who buried the puck in the net, icing the comeback cake.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has just left the building.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 7 Detroit 6 (OT)
At the beginning of the game, my dad uttered these exact words: "Fedotenko is due tonight". I actually scolded him for jinxing Ruslan.
How do I know Malkin is the best player in the league right now? The Wings took Gino out of his element tonight, took away his open ice, and pressured him every time he touched the puck. Oh, and he put up two points.
Talbot is playing out of his mind since being moved to the first line with Sid and Satan.
Hossa had two assists and a bunch of shots. He also got his cage rattled by Talbot and Cooke along the boards. Pretty fair trade-off in my book.
Goligoski looked out of his league tonight. He had an assist, but his play was terrible. He turned the puck over at least four times and made some questionable decisions with the puck. Then again, he's never played against a team as good as Detroit.
The slumping economy is the excuse most commonly offered for the empty seats at Joke Louis Arena. But, whose economy isn't slumping right now?
Rob Scuderi took a Lidstrom slap shot off of his left skate in the first period. He left the ice and returned for two shifts in the second period before leaving for the rest of the game. Scuds has been a defensive stalwart over the past two seasons and if he misses any substantial time, the Pens dilapidated blue line will take another step backward.
If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: Michel Therrien is a player's coach. He rewarded Talbot's solid play by promoting him to the top line, he rewarded Staal's first goal by giving him more shifts down the stretch, and he put faith in Fedotenko by giving him a shift in overtime.
Mike Emrick must not have grasped the concept of inside jokes during his Hall-of-Fame career. When you tell inside jokes on the air, people that don't work for the worst network on cable television don't find them funny, because they aren't on the "inside". If that guy's a hall-of-famer, I don't find the use of the word joke to be funny.
This game wasn't about revenge because it couldn't change the outcome of the Stalney Cup Finals, but damn did it feel great.
Bleacher Report is being a joke and won't let me upload pictures to my articles anymore. Anyone else having the same problem?
The Pens host the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night at Mellon Arena. The VERSUS crew will not be in attendance, so we won't be reminded 40 times that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are both cities that are located in the state of Pennsylvania.
You can view the complete article, with picture, at Experiencing the Evolution.