Game 6 defining moment for Pens' Big Three

| Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sidney Crosby. Marc-Andre Fleury. Evgeni Malkin.

Left-to-right, pictures of only those Penguins adorn a larger-than-life white drape that covers a considerable portion of under-construction Consol Energy Center, a building their collective promise helped convince public officials to fund.

They are the unoriginally tagged "Big Three," two first overall draft picks (Fleury and Crosby) and a No. 2 pick (Malkin) with talent on loan from the hockey gods, predicted — no, expected — to deliver the Penguins the Stanley Cup.

Tonight is their defining moment.

"Yeah, this is; we're lucky we've made it twice in a row," Fleury said of the Stanley Cup Final, which the Penguins face losing at home to the Detroit Red Wings for a second consecutive season tonight in Game 6 at Mellon Arena.

"All the work it takes in a year. We realize how much it takes to get here. We can't quit now. We've got to give all we got, and hopefully it's going to turn out good."

Good, in this case, is easy to define.

Win tonight and the Penguins force a deciding seventh game Friday at Detroit in the best-of-seven Final, which they trail, 3-2.

Win and, as left wing Ruslan Fedotenko said, "Anything can happen."

Lose, though, and the "Big Three"-led Penguins will relive a nightmarish scene that haunts them: The Red Wings taking victory laps with the Cup in front of a heartbroken-but-respectful sellout crowd decked out in white t-shirts.

This time those Red Wings would include former Penguins winger Marian Hossa, who joined Detroit last July because he "thought they (gave him) the best chance to win the Cup."

Lose and Hossa, who has not scored a goal in this Final, will have been spot-on correct.

Lose and the Penguins, especially the "Big Three," can forget about comparisons with the dynastic Edmonton Oilers. Those Oilers — also led by two young star centers, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, and a big-save goalie, Grant Fuhr — won a Final rematch with the New York Islanders in 1984 after losing the previous year.

"We need a defining game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Quoting Red Wings coach Mike Babcock: "In the biggest events, the players just do what they do. They're just calm and they play. Some of us get too over-activated and do nothing."

The Penguins are in this possible elimination spot because their "Big Three" did nothing Saturday in a Game 5 loss at Detroit.

Fleury was pulled from that 5-0 defeat after making only 16 saves in less than 36 minutes. Malkin and Crosby, first and second in playoff scoring, combined for one shot apiece, three giveaways, four penalties and a minus-3 rating.

Those are fairly pathetic statistics for players set to cost $22.7 million against the NHL's salary cap each of the next four seasons.

"We've got to bounce back," Crosby said Monday after practice.

However, when presented with tonight being a defining moment, Crosby said he "wouldn't go that far."

Other Penguins would.

"I think so," center Jordan Staal said.

Forward Max Talbot called Game 6 a "huge test for this group."

"Probably the biggest test," he said. "We need to win."

Talbot also spoke about a fear of losing, which veteran winger Bill Guerin - along with Fedotenko one of few Penguins to have lifted the Cup - insisted could motivate tonight.

"Sometimes, fear is a weapon," Guerin said. "You have to use that to drive you."

Tonight the Penguins' "Big Three" weapons must drive them to a third series home victory.

Crosby. Fleury. Malkin. They need to play as big as the drape covering their future home.

"This is a chance," Fleury said, "that we can't waste."

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