Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stanley Cup Finals Game 4: Pens v Red Wings (L 1-2)

Oh boy. We're in a must win situation for Game 5 (and all subsequent games, actually). Things are looking pretty bleak. If it wasn't clear before, tonight it was crystal - there is something very wrong with Evgeni Malkin. Is he hurt? Is he psyching himself out? Is he sick? What's clear is that he is not playing well, and that's not like Geno at all. Of course, they'll never tell us if he's hurt or sick until the series is over. Getting information like that during times like these is harder than getting Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to quit breeding. It also doesn't help that the Red Wings have 100 times more experience than the Pens. We were told tonight that 17 Pens are under the age of 30, while 14 Wings are over the age of 30. It could be really easy to give up hope right now...

What's wrong, Geno?

...but we have to just remember: it takes 4 wins to get the Cup, and that means the Pens still have a chance.

The game began with a moment of silence for Luc Bourdon.

Marc-Andre Fleury made a big save on Brian Rafalski early in the game. Rob Scuderi was hurt by a big hit by Pavel Datsyuk. The Pens got the night's first power play when Dallas Drake was busted for cross checking Ryan Whitney. The Pens' power play wasn't pretty at first. Geno missed a pass at the point and had to make a diving poke check on Henrik Zetterberg to prevent him from getting a breakaway. Flower ended up with the puck, and he did a great job of protecting it from Zetterberg until his teammates came in for support. Sid got the puck back in the offensive zone while Andreas Lilja pulled his jersey (no call). Sid got the puck to Sergei Gonchar, who put the puck on net. With Gary Roberts in his office in front of the net, Marian Hossa drew first blood with the goal. [Pens 1, Wings 0]

On his next shift, Hossa hit the effing crossbar with a shot. Sid broke his stick (the first of many times the Saint found himself without a stick tonight) while attempting to make a pass. It was like the stick blew up in his hands! It resulted in a turnover to the Wings, which lead to a cross checking penalty on Pascal Dupuis. Ryan Malone was UNREAL again on the penalty kill. We're told this is the first time in 12 years that his grandmother was in attendance at the Mellon Arena, so he was probably putting on a show just for her. :) The Wings didn't capitalize on their advantage, but literally as Dupuis was released from the box, Nicklas Lidstrom scored. [Pens 1, Wings 1]

Rafalski was called for roughing, and even though Brad Stuart lost his stick, the Pens didn't benefit from their advantage. Pierre McGuire informed us that Kris Draper and Sid have been exchanging words for nearly the entire period. McGuire then interviewed Coach Michel Therrien, who said that Scuds was good to go. Draper took a penalty for holding. Sidney broke his stick again, so he retreated to get a new one. He returned to the Wings' zone with his new stick and got possession of the puck. For reasons known only to him, Dan Cleary fired a piece of the broken stick at Sid. Cleary = 100% classless. To make matters worse, it wasn't called. All three announcers agreed that Cleary dodged a real bullet there. The Pens didn't score on their power play.

The Pens were obviously frustrating the Red Wings in the first period. Two Wings cross checked two Pens in front of MAF after a whistle. Brett Lebda was called for cross checking, but we were thrown a curve ball when the refs called Mad Max Talbot for diving. W-T-F? On the ensuing 4-on-4, Brooks Orpik and Johan Franzen got into a fight after Franzen got his arm up on Orpik. They both went to their respective boxes, and the 4-on-4 continued. Hossa and Sid went nuts, but Sid couldn't quite get to the puck in front. Geno and Dupuis went nuts, but Dupuis couldn't get the pass cleanly. Neither team scored. The period ended with a draw.

Early in the second, Mikael Samuelsson fired a shot that popped up high. It seemed like everyone but Sammy lost track of where it went. It dropped back down to Sammy, who was able to fire a quick shot that MAF stopped. Orpik upended Cleary after Cleary tried to hit Orpik. Dupuis fired a shot that Sid tried to deflect, but Chris Osgood made a stunning save. Jordan Staal was called for interference, but the Pens kept the Wings from firing even one shot on goal during their power play. Then there was a period of over 5 minutes without a whistle. Hossa made a series of amazing moves to get around the Wings' defenders, but both Hossa and Dupuis were denied by Ozzy.

Later, Bugsy almost got a wraparound, but Ozzy said "NO." Mad Max took 3 big hits in one shift - WHAT A WARRIOR! Tyler Kennedy almost had a scoring chance after he leaped around Lebda. Then Robs (? I am totally stealing that) absolutely creamed Darren McCarty, prompting the crowd at the Mellon to erupt in a "GAR-Y, GAR-Y, GAR-Y!!!" chant. Sid broke through the D, but his shot was denied. Dupuis got to the rebound, but he too was denied by Ozzy. Lilja got away with a cross check on Jarrko Ruutu. Eddie Olczyk said, "Lilja would have been called if that had been anybody else." So, refs: just because the victim was superpest Ruutu makes the non-call okay? I don't think so! Rafalski went to the box again a little bit later for holding. I don't even want to talk about this Penguins power play because it was just awful. They didn't even get one shot on goal, but how could they with all the turnovers? Question: If Geno's not playing well when they're at even strength, why put him on the point during power plays? Oh, and don't interpret this as laying blame on just Geno for the terrible power play - all the Pens on the ice made stupid mistakes during this one.

With less than a minute to go in the period, Lidstrom turned the puck over to Hossa in the Wings' zone. Hossa fired a wicked shot that Ozzy stopped. Robs and Kirk Maltby discussed a possible fight - Robs said if Maltby would remove the visor, he'd be happy to go at it - but they didn't fight. The period ended with both teams still even at 1.

The third period got underway after an AWK-ward! intermission report during which the commentators got into a squabble. Hossa was playing like a man possessed tonight. He was picking pockets all over the place. But the Pens turned the puck over in their own zone. Then the Pens had at least 2 good opportunities to clear it out, but they didn't. Jiri Hudler made them pay with a backhander that hopped up and over Flower to break the tie early. [Pens 1, Wings 2] It, as you know, ended up being the game winner.

Just after that, the Wings got an odd man rush. MAF blocked the initial shot. The rebound popped up, so Flower used his stick like a baseball bat to knock it out of the air and behind him. The problem? He hit it so hard that the puck sailed over the glass. He was nailed with a delay of game penalty. The Wings, fortunately, did not add to their lead on their power play. On the next play, Geno went down and flew into the net (missing Ozzy) and dislodged it. At one point a little later, both teams let the puck slide past the benches because both teams were making a change and neither team wanted to take a too many men penalty. Then the moment that changed the course of the game happened.

Maltby took a penalty for hooking. Just over 30 seconds later, Lilja was penalized for interfering with Sid. The Pens had more than 1:20 with a 5-on-3 advantage. Zetterberg, who has been all over Sid like white on rice for this entire series, tied Sid's stick up just before Hossa passed the puck to Sid, otherwise he would have been able to stuff it in for the tying goal. (Something to check out: David Staples of The Cult of Hockey breaks this incident down and tells us what should have happened - but didn't.) Therrien used his timeout with 25 seconds left on the 5-on-3, but it didn't help. Zetterberg took possession and kept the puck in the Pens' zone for several seconds to kill some time. He even managed to set up a shorthanded chance. Zetterberg is a beast. The phrase "that was a huge penalty kill" gets thrown around a lot, but that was a H-U-G-E kill for the Wings. You could almost actually see the momentum shift right there.

The Pens did manage to get a number of great chances and fire several shots, but the Wings blocked everything. Sid lost his stick which allowed the Wings to get an odd man rush. Datsyuk fired a shot that caromed off Cleary, but Flower answered with a pad save. As the Pens took the puck the other way, the ref tripped over Sid's stick and he wiped out. Luckily, the ref wasn't hurt. Suddenly, there were only 3 minutes left on the clock. The Wings called for their timeout. With a mere 53 seconds left in the game, MAF was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. There were a pair of close calls, but the Wings didn't get an empty netter. The Pens battled all the way to the last second. As the game came to an end, Zetterberg slashed Sid. That was the last straw. Sidney let the frustration of dealing with Zetterberg being up his arse and interfering with his game for 4 straight games come to the surface and went after Zetterberg to "politely tell him about it." Sid had to cross the path of the exiting Therrien to get to Zetterberg. It was funny because Therrien didn't even try to stop Sid - he let the ref do that.

There is no denying that the odds are against the Pens. But you can't forget where there is a will, there is a way. The Boys need to just take it one game at a time and put their collective focus on winning Monday's game - all other games be damned right now. And really, if you think about it, winning 3 games in a row isn't all that daunting of a task. If anyone can do it, it's our Cardiac Kids.

GO PENS!!!!!!!!!!

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