About 24 hours ago, the Stanley Cup Finals finally got its defining moment.
In what was already a fantastic game, Maxim Talbot forced overtime with less than 30 seconds to play.
A building getting ready to explode was sent right back to the doldrums with two quick hacks at the left pad of Chris Osgood. It was as if they just announced GM was adding 30,000 new jobs in Michigan, then after the factories were built they moved everything to China.
It’s something we’ve had the misfortune of witnessing in Buffalo, the chance at a Stanley Cup taken right off your doorstep. However, no matter what opinion you have of 1999, we’ve never been that close to winning it all.
More importantly, the overtime that followed was downright fantastic. Malone takes a shot in the face, Gonchar slamming into the end boards, Malkin wincing with every hit; it was a game that made the message on the shirts ring true: sacrifice. Then, just when you didn’t think it would ever end, it happened. With Fleury standing on his head all night long, he finally got his chance to celebrate.
Petr Sykora called his shot, and the Stanley Cup is back in Pittsburgh.
Reasons to complain aside, this Cup Finals has lived up to the hype, at least as much as you possibly can when the league’s brightest star and best team go head to head. No matter what happens Wednesday night, the league has already been given its signature moment, a story that hockey fans can tell for years.
Yes, ratings are up (We’re back to 2002!) and who knows just how many people flicked over once they knew it was in sudden death overtime; but the important thing is that there is a buzz about hockey that just hasn’t been there in some time.
Petr Sykora, one of the best free agent pickups of last summer, has given this year’s playoffs something that they haven’t had for some time: a story suddenly worth watching.
The NBA Finals don’t start until Thursday. Tomorrow, hockey has its night to shine. Mellon Arena will be rocking, and NBC will be the place to be come 8pm. No matter what happens, there is an excitement suddenly injected into the Finals that hasn’t been there since… who knows when?
It’s a good time to be a hockey fan.