Sometimes hockey is a game of ifs.
If Dan Cleary shot high instead of low on his third period breakaway...
If Rob Scuderi hadn't acted as a second goaltender for Pittsburgh in the closing seconds...
Or here's one,
If Detroit hadn't let Chris Osgood down last night...
Detroit came into this Game Six having only lost once in the last three years when they've had a chance to eliminate an opponent in a Game Six situation. That was to Anaheim in the conference semifinals.
Make that two losses now.
Pittsburgh knows how to win in the clutch, and they proved it.
In a way, it's fitting. This was never supposed to be easy. You don't win the Stanley Cup by only turning up the heat in the final 15 minutes of the game. You have to come out playing 100 percent and then get better as the game goes on.
Pittsburgh did that last night.
The shot total after the first period? 12-to-3in favor of Pittsburgh. To Red Wings fans, that's unfamiliar.
Yet, the two teams still ended the period in a scoreless tie.
As odd-man rush after odd-man rush pummelled Osgood with pucks, and as Detroit struggled to clear the puck from their defensive zone, Osgood's resolve grew stronger.
He played out of his mind last night, and should Detroit win Game Seven, he has all but locked up the Conn Smythe. Shame his teammates wasted the effort.
"If you're asking what happened, you're talking to the wrong guy," lamented Osgood after the game.
Even so, Detroit still had excellent opportunities to tie the game late in the third period. Dan Cleary soared up the ice on a breakaway and Red Wings fans rose to their seats hoping to see the same type of goal that sent Anaheim to the golf course.
He was denied this timean excellent save by Marc-Andre Fleury.
Then, in the closing seconds of the game, there was a frenzy in front of Pittsburgh's net. The refs, perhaps learning from past mistakes allowed play to continue while Red Wings poked and jabbed, relentlessly trying to shove the puck past not only Fleury, but Rob Scuderi as well.
When the whistle finally blew, there were 10 skaters inside Pittsburgh's crease, and no goal had been scored.
It was one of the best displays of defense I've seen in some time, and it was everything Pittsburgh needed to do to prolong this series.
Perhaps most refreshing is that this game was not decided by bad referee calls. Let me go on the record here and now and say the teams were allowed to decide this game. One showed up, the other didn't for 40 minutes. It's as simple as that.
Nik Kronwall talked about how the Red Wings would play better in the next game. You would hope he realizes that the next game is his last chance to give everything he has.
You still have to like Detroit's chances in a Game Seven at home. This will be the first time in nearly 50 years that Detroit will play for the Stanley Cup in a home Game Seven and it will be a game for the ages.
Hopefully Detroit paid attention, though. They are playing a skilled, resilient, and strong-willed team and if they want to become the first team in the cap era to repeat as champions, they must match every bit of the hunger of their counterparts.
When one team has finished their meal Friday night, they can then wash it down with champagne from Lord Stanley's Cup.