June 03, 2008
No. 1 star: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Whether the Pens win this series in seven or the Red Wings get it done in six, this Stanley Cup finals needed a game like this. Triple-overtime battles legitimize championships. Thanks in large part to Fleury, this series has transformed from borderline unwatchable to the type of theater you'd pay twice to get into and still feel like you'd got a bargain. You'll want to find a highlight of Fleury's left toe save that denied Mikael Samuelsson on a 2-on-1. Move over Evgeni Nabokov (video), we have a new stop of the playoffs. He went on from there to record notable saves in overtime against Tomas Holmstrom and Daniel Cleary among his 55 saves on the evening. The Penguins were absolutely on their heels for the bulk of the third period and the first overtime. There would have been no room for Max Talbot's end-of-regulation heroics had it not been for Fleury's play.
No. 2 star: Petr Sykora, Pittsburgh Penguins
If you believe the report from NBC's ice-level reporter Pierre McGuire, Sykora made a bold prediction during the second overtime, thumping his chest and asserting that he would be the one to light the lamp that forces a Game 6. Moments later he was in the penalty box for hooking, presumably placed there so the hockey gods could quietly whisper in his ear, "you're no Mark Messier." Heck, he's not even Owen Nolan (video). Sykora got the message, bided his time, then pounced on a third-overtime power play to beat Chris Osgood for the game-winner. He'd later admit it wasn't his best game overall – the slapper that sent everyone home was his first shot on goal of a long night – but all was forgiven on that final shot.
No. 3 star: Mikael Samuelsson, Detroit Red Wings
The forgotten Swede was Detroit's best player Monday. The Penguins were trapped in their own zone for much of the third period and leading the charge was Samuelsson, who earned an in-game promotion to Henrik Zetterberg's wing. Samuelsson was flat-out robbed twice by Fleury, once on that 2-on-1 with Valtteri Filppula that looked like a sure thing and again in the third period when Fleury's glove captured a shot that was ticketed for the far post.
Major penalty: When you're in the penalty box for a game-winner in the third overtime of a Stanley Cup finals elimination game, you're going to land in this spot, even if technically it was a double-minor that got Jiri Hudler in hot water. After the Red Wings had been penalized twice in overtime on disputed goalie interference calls, you had to figure Detroit would get the benefit of the doubt the rest of the night or possibly an even-up call at some point. Unfortunately a stick to the face that draws blood leaves little doubt, so Hudler was sent off and the series was sent back to Pittsburgh.
Minor penalty: We're not sure if our own Brian Murphy is a hockey guy or not, but if he was taking in Game 5 we can envision him screaming "give that man a mulligan!" from a potato-chip strewn couch after Niklas Kronwall's clearing attempt wound up in his own goal (video). At first blush it looked like a perfect roof job straight from Kronwall's stick to the top corner. Thankfully for Kronwall there's this thing called instant replay, because it soon came to light that the puck deflected off Adam Hall's skate before burning Osgood. Still, let's give Kronwall – perhaps the hardest hitter in this series and a guy that deserves better – a frozen mulligan.
Conn Smythe watch
1. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
2. Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
5. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
6. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
7. Marian Hossa, Pittsburgh Penguins
8. Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
9. Tomas Holmstrom, Detroit Red Wings
10. Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings