- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Crosby had given worthy efforts in the shutout losses while most other Penguins were taking tours of the Ford plant or dining in Greektown or whatever it was that occupied their time in Detroit. But Crosby's good work hadn't translated to production until 5:35 remained in the first period. Therrien, whose team was being outshot 9-1, threw Malkin on a line with Crosby and Marian Hossa. The sustained pressure through that shift and subsequent ones continued for almost three minutes, taking a toll on the previously impervious Red Wings. Finally, when Stuart passed the puck from behind his net directly into Zetterberg's skates, Crosby gathered the errant puck and slid it past Osgood with 2:35 left in the first period. Then, 2½ minutes into the second, Crosby tapped in a power-play gimme to the left of Osgood off a short pass from Hossa.
After a breathless finish to a furious third period—Adam Hall's bank shot off Osgood's leg from behind the net at 7:18 would prove to be the winner—Crosby was his usual diffident postgame self. When asked if he thought the performance was the highlight of his career, he said he didn't know. He talked about his linemates moving their feet. He allowed that the puck had ended up on his stick. He brought an A game although his postgame comments were duller than C-Span. But who cares? The match produced the highest Game 3 ratings in six years. More than two decades after the debut of The Cosby Show, NBC had the Crosby Show. Another winner.
In the best minute-plus performance by any athlete in the month of May since Big Brown won the Preakness, the estimable Zetterberg had perhaps the most exceptional hat trick in the history of the Cup finals in Game 4—all without scoring a goal.
This was Zetterberg's indelible, Conn Smythe-worthy minute: While killing a Pittsburgh two-man advantage in the third period, Zetterberg 1) tied up a stick to save a certain goal; 2) sacrificed his body to block a shot; and 3) carried a puck into the Penguins' zone and got off a shot to use even more precious time. Amazing.
If you are in need of a pivot point for the 2008 finals, a moment when the series seemed as if it could swing one way or the other, look no further than the third period of Game 4. Detroit had taken a 2-1 lead at 2:26 of the third on a backhander by Jiri Hudler that squeezed between the near post and goaltender Fleury's arm—a goal as soft as a grandmother's heart—but a Kirk Maltby hooking penalty at 9:36 and an interference call on Andreas Lilja for taking down Crosby 34 seconds later gave the Penguins a protracted five-on-three. Into the breach stepped Zetterberg, who, with Lidstrom and Kronwall—and later Datsyuk—barely gave Pittsburgh a sniff.
Zetterberg's block and shot on goal qualify as meritorious work, but his tying up Crosby's stick at the goalmouth is the stuff of legend. Zetterberg had to rotate off the top of the three-man triangle, hurtle down to the left of Osgood and cross the blade of Crosby's stick with his own to spoil a gimme, a play of nuance and skill. "That was a huge boost for us," said Red Wings defenseman Brett Lebda. "He takes [the game] under control, and he says, 'They're not going to score.' And he made sure of it."
With Pittsburgh's chances of winning the Cup on life support and its goaltender on his way to the bench for an extra attacker, Therrien surveyed his team for the right player to send out in the final minute of Game 5.
There was Petr Sykora, a past Stanley Cup champion who, despite having been blanked in the finals, has the most dangerous onetimer on the team. There was Malone, the linebacker masquerading as a winger who, despite a broken nose and a face that looked as if it had lost a 10-rounder with a Veg-O-Matic after having been struck in the second period by teammate Gill's shot, could screen Osgood. There was Pascal Dupuis, Crosby's customary left wing who had been playing a strong game on the puck and set up the first goal. There was...Max Talbot?