Now I understand why they make energy drinks.
Wide awake when the Pittsburgh Penguins lit the goal lamp deep into the night at Joe Louis Arena on Monday against the Detroit Red Wings, I frantically yelled the word “score” on a loop for about a minute. I honestly can’t believe the people upstairs didn’t hear it. Trust me, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
In the sixth period of the fifth game of the Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins let the cheeks of Red Wings fans match their garb. Steamed for not being able to put away Pittsburgh, Detroit let the Penguins back into the series with an improbable and deliciously unpredictable ending to one of the more thrilling hockey games in postseason history.
This game deserved the hype.
Watching an early two goal lead shift into a one goal deficit late in the game, Pittsburgh looked tired, depressed and lost. Playing in front of a Red Wings crowd sensing the Stanley Cup, the entire arena broke into a spontaneous version of Journey’s classic hit “Don’t Stop Believing.”
Maybe that song woke the Penguins up.
With just 34 seconds left in the season, Max Talbot tied the game at three. If you didn’t see the shot or don’t understand how remarkable that clutch performance became, it turned the entire series on its head. Imagine eating three pieces of cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory and not worrying about gaining weight. It’s that good.
Fifty minutes later, on a four minute double minor penalty, Pittsburgh finally went all-in. Petr Sykora took the helper from Sergei Gonchar and gave millions of hockey fans outside of Detroit an early Christmas present. We will have a game six in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final.
It’s hard to fully appreciate how this seminal sports moment affected others. For me, it’s the kind of game that you call your Dad, who’s 3,000 miles away waiting for his luggage at the airport and hoping to not miss the final goal. It’s the kind of game that you change your Facebook status update 20 times, not believing what you are watching. It’s the kind of game that unites casual hockey fans with the diehards, a chance to “oh” and “ah” like a bunch of kids watching fireworks.
Leaving the Joe in the middle of the night, the reality of the situation hit both teams. Detroit still only needs one win to raise the Cup, but lost all of the precious momentum on its home ice. Pittsburgh heads back to the Igloo with two goals: win at home and go back to Michigan.
Grab a Red Bull and join me for the fun. After all, sleep is overrated during the playoffs.