The Pittsburgh Penguins were saying after Saturday night's game that it took a two-goal Boston Bruins lead to snap them back into cashing the opportunity they were facing -- going to the Stanley Cup final.
"We didn't have a whole lot going," said goalie Tom Barrasso, "until they got the 2-0 lead. Maybe that was the best thing that could have happened, because we got the jump back after that."
And maybe the way Barrasso has played this playoff season has taken a bad label off his back -- that he can't win the big games.
Mark Recchi, the man who scored the winning goal, also pointed to Boston's early lead as the impetus in the Penguins' stepped-up attack. "We realized we were in for a battle," he said, "and when they got the 2-0 lead, it was a wake-up call for us. We realized we had to start skating."
Barrasso, Recchi, Kevin Stevens, those were the players surrounded by the media. Across the room sitting quietly was the unsung and unexpected hero of the victory, veteran defenseman Gordie Roberts.
He scored the goal that put the Penguins ahead, 3-2, and he made the play to Recchi for the winning goal. "I'll enjoy my few moments of fame," he said. "[Yesterday] morning, I'll go back to the hard hat."
He is a hard-hat-type of player, an honest workman whose 17-year career had swung from a defenseman who attacked like a forward to a defenseman who plays defense. He is 33 years old and was rescued from the St. Louis Blues' International Hockey League team in Peoria, Ill., in early October.
So what was he doing in the slot to take a drop pass and fire the leading goal by Andy Moog?
"I'm a competitive person," he said, "and I didn't want to go back to Boston for a seventh game."
None of the Penguins did. So he went to the slot and scored.
"I was just following the play," he said, "and I saw Recchi flying down the right side. He's got great speed, and that's his favorite shooting spot. He always works shooting from the spot in practice. He finds some unbelievable corners from over there."
"The city deserves it," Recchi said. "The owners deserve it, and the guys who have been here for eight or nine empty years deserve it. And the crowd. It gives you a chill sitting on the bench and hearing that noise."
Then he looked around the room. "There were 27 players in this victory," he said, including all the backups.