Having a ton of work to do, I decided I'd listen to last night's Game Five in my studio on the radio via NHL.com. That's how I'd been following the games all year, and while I wasn't counting the Penguins out, the possibility that this would be their last game until October made me want to make sure I listened to Mike Lange call one last contest before the long summer break. When the Pens scored twice early to take a 2-0 lead, I briefly considered moving to the couch to watch on TV...but superstition says stay with what's working, so I remained at my desk. As the lead evaporated and the Wings took the lead, my emotions began to take over, and unable to concentrate on what I was doing anyway, I flipped on the TV to witness what I hoped would be an amazing comeback, but feared would be the bitter end. My anger and disgust grew as the seconds ticked off...the Red Wing fans were chanting "WE WANT THE CUP!"...at one point, with about a minute remaining, I tried to think of what in the house might be flammable enough to burn the Stanley Cup patch I bought (with the intention of attaching to my Evgeni Malkin jersey) to unrecognizable cinders.
Then, the amazing happened, and Max Talbot whacked the puck past Osgood with 35 seconds left! Overtime. I went back to the radio and kept working while I listened. The Red Wigs seemed to get a ton of chances, but Fleury was amazing, stopping everything that came his way. The Penguins, thanks to a couple of sloppy plays by Detroit forwards, received a couple of 5-on-4 chances, but with the quarterback of their power play, defenseman Sergei Gonchar, in the dressing room after injuring his back earlier in the game, they had trouble even putting a shot on net with the extra man.
Overtime turned into second overtime, then third overtime...Once you're about an overtime-and-a-half in, you know the result is going to be one of the best memories you have of watching a hockey game, or feel like a colossal waste of time you'll forever remember with dread. The radio team kept mentioning how long Game Five had gone on vs. others in Finals history...seventh-longest...sixth-longest...fifth-longest...
About halfway through the third OT, and at about five minutes 'til one a.m., Detroit's Jiri Hudler high-sticked the Pens' Rob Scuderi in the face, drawing blood...a four-minute penalty instead of the usual two. Then, Mike Lange says Sergei Gonchar is coming out on to the ice. I'm astounded. And baffled. "Sarge" had returned?! My spirits were buoyed with hope, and soared 36 seconds later when the Pens' Petr Sykora got open for a pass by Malkin and fired one right past Osgood. "Heeeeeee shoots and scores!" I jumped up from the desk and ran to watch the celebration on TV.
I knew I'd be exhausted today, but I hardly even feel it. I am gonna cherish the experience of this game forever. Probably the best memory I have of watching a Penguins game is the four-overtimer vs. the Caps back in '96...my broke ass didn't have cable, so I stayed at the laundromat/bar where I worked (don't ask) 2 1/2 hours past midnight and closing time to watch Nedved bury one behind Kolzig. I have a new best memory...but it could get so much better.
Tomorrow is Game Six in Pittsburgh...somehow all those old-ass bitches who play for Detroit are gonna have to get their act together to play another game and take another whack at closing out the Pens and lifting the Cup.
Otherwise, it's Game Seven Saturday night. Anything can happen.
We're alive. It's June, and the Pittsburgh Penguins are still playing hockey.
Posted by Robert Ullman at 9:52 PM