Pens get 'miracle' boost

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Of all the figures expected to make a difference in the Stanley Cup final, somehow we missed the name of Brooks Orpik.

There was obvious talk of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury as possible stars. There was talk of the brilliance of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, the defensive gem that is Nicklas Lidstrom, and the re-made goaltender, Chris Osgood.

Just not much about Orpik, the gangly defenceman on the Pittsburgh blueline, named for the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey coach. His father wanted to call him Herb. His mother disagreed. They negotiated it down to naming him Brooks.

A hockey player, thus, was born.

In Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, so was his reputation.

On one third-period shift, with the Penguins clinging to the lead, all Orpik did was go out and hit everything in sight.

Four hits in 35 seconds: Unofficially a Stanley Cup record.

He got back to the bench and all he heard was yelling: "But he's always yelling," Orpik said of coach Michel Therrien.

By the end of the night and into the morning, the Orpik shift was still the inspirational talk around the Penguins. Even moreso than Sidney Crosby's first two-goal playoff game.

"It's weird," said Orpik, a pending free agent. "Everyone's talking about this one shift, but there's lots of good shifts by lots of players. We have to be physical against this team to be successful. It's my job to be physical.

"I'm pretty sore today. But it always feels a little better when you come out on top. We have to hit them. The more you pound on them, it definitely takes its toll during the end of the series. This time of year, you really want to make them pay."

That's the Pittsburgh view, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. They figure their best opportunity to win is to be physical with the Red Wings. It's why Orpik made such an impact in Game 3, why Gary Roberts was praised for his play two games after being benched for Game 1, why Adam Hall managed to score the winning goal.

Orpik and partner Sergei Gonchar have been lined up against the Red Wings' first line of Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom in most of the first three games. In fact, Therrien thinks the Penguins have gotten better in each game, something the Red Wings certainly cannot claim.

"Our team is more comfortable every game," Therrien said. "Our team has more confidence every game. That's a good sign. The more the series goes on, the more we're going to get better."

The history of the Red Wings throughout this Stanley Cup season says otherwise. Detroit led 2-0 against Nashville and lost two straight games before winning the series. Detroit led 3-0 against Dallas before losing two straight games, then coming back to win the series.

You could argue the Red Wings have the Penguins exactly where they want them after three games of the series.

"I don't think anybody expected us to win four straight," said Osgood, the Wings' goalie.

At least, not until they easily won the first two games of the Cup final. Then, there was talk of sweep and after the first 10 minutes of Game 3, it didn't seem out of the question.

For as well as the Penguins played in a third game that finally measured up to the pre-series excitement, they still were outshot, outchanced, and on their heels hanging on to a lead in the final seconds.

The Red Wings were off their game and still lost by only one.

"It's not going to be easy," said Lidstrom, the captain. "We've see situations like this before where you want to get that third win. You want to get that good push.

"For whatever reason, the other team comes out and plays real well."

The question is: Can the young Penguins do it again? And will the older Red Wings be as sloppy as they were in Game 3?

"We lost two games (in the last series) and everyone was talking about, 'You're going to change this, going to change that,' " Lidstrom said. "We said, 'We're not changing that. This is what we do.' "


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