By GEORGE SIPPLE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • June 3, 2008
PITTSBURGH — Petr Sykora hadn’t taken a shot on net when he decided to call his own.
Sykora and linemate Evgeni Malkin had failed to produce a point in the first four games of the Stanley Cup finals against the Red Wings. Sykora wanted to change his luck, so during the second overtime on Monday at Joe Louis Arena, he told NBC reporter Pierre McGuire he was going to score.
Sykora, with an assist from Malkin, ended the fifth-longest game in the Cup finals when he scored at 9:57 of the third overtime to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory. The Penguins trail the best-of-seven series, 3-2, heading into Game 6 tonight at Mellon Arena.
“It’s exciting when you see it really happens,” Maxime Talbot said of Sykora’s prediction coming true. “When a guy like that steps out and says, ‘I think I got one, guys.’ You look at him, and you hope he’s saying the truth. When it happens, you can’t believe it. You’re like, ‘Oh, my God. He called for it, and it was great.’ It’s a great story to tell.”
Sykora said he was waiting for his opportunity, which finally came on a pass from Malkin during a power play. He said he made his scoring comment to McGuire to lighten his team’s tension.
“I didn’t feel I was going to score, but (I made the comment) just to get a little looser out there … get the guys a little laugh in the locker room,” Sykora said.
“And I’m not complaining that it worked.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock said after the game he didn’t like seeing the puck on Sykora’s stick in that situation. In 2003, Babcock was coaching Anaheim when Sykora’s goal for the Ducks ended a five-overtime playoff game against the Dallas Stars.
“I had some great times with Babs,” said Sykora, 31, who won a Cup with New Jersey in 2000. “He really let me play when I needed to play. He really put his trust in me.
“When I played for him I had a lot of fun and I really respect him as a coach. I think he’s one of the top coaches in this league because he really understands the game.”
Pens coach Michel Therrien said he hopes the overtime goal leads to increased production from Sykora and Malkin.
“We need those players to be able to perform both sides of the ice,” Therrien said. “This is what playoffs is all about.
“You’ve got to make sure you’re strong defensively, you’re strong on the puck. In the meantime, you gotta be able to produce at the right time, and I like that line with (Jarkko) Ruutu in overtime.”
Sykora delivers on his called shot
Petr Sykora's Psychic Hotline is now open for business.
Sykora told a United States hockey broadcaster during overtime he would score the winner for his Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night. On Tuesday morning, his prediction came true, and Pittsburgh danced out of Joe Louis Arena with a 4-3 triple-overtime victory, the fifth-longest Stanley Cup final game in history.
It was an amazing finish to an incredible game, and now the Cup final moves back to the Steel City for a Game 6 Wednesday night.
"I hadn't been doing much, but I felt I was starting to get some chances, and I finally got one to go in," said Sykora, whose goal was his first of the series.
Sykora did not seem to be very Nostradamus-like after his prediction, when he was called for hooking Niklas Kronwall shortly after he made it, putting Detroit on the power play in the second OT. But the Penguins did a great job of killing the penalty, and Pittsburgh kept hanging in there until the Penguins got the break of the night, when Jiri Hudler clipped defenceman Rob Scuderi with his stick, drawing a four-minute minor.
Then, Sergei Gonchar, who seemed lost for the night with an undisclosed injury, came back like Lazarus and manned the power play. Not long after, the puck was in the net.