Monday, March 22, 2010

March Madness Not Limited to Hardwood as Red Wings, Spartans Both Beat Buzzers

It was Yogi Berra Weekend when it came to our teams over the past few days.

The venerable Yankee, who famously extolled that it's "never over till it's over," would be smiling that moon-faced smile if he was plugged into the scene here.

The Red Wings and the Michigan State Spartans both squeezed the clock dry in thrilling fashion. The Red Wings got one-and-a-half victories engaging in such drama, and the Spartans scored a big-time win the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

First, it was Brian Rafalski burying the puck with 0.2 seconds left in the third period in Edmonton on Friday night, tying the game and giving the Red Wings a much-needed point. They went ahead and lost the "third point" in a shootout (ugh!) but Raffi's goal avoided an embarrassing (and costly) goose egg against the Oilers.

The next night, it was Henrik Zetterberg flipping a backhand past Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo to give the Red Wings an overtime win. Zetterberg wasn't quite as efficient as Rafalski; there were 0.3 seconds left when Hank struck.

As if that wasn't enough, MSU escaped the second round and a furious Maryland rally late in the game to win, 85-83, on Korie Lucious's three-point dagger as the clock expired.


Between those three games, there was half-a-second remaining on the clock, combined, when the heroics happened.

The Red Wings' late-game fun was no less important, or clutch, than the Spartans' survival into the Sweet 16. Those three points the Wings gathered over the weekend will loom large when the final tally is counted at the end of the season.

Tonight, it's the Penguins at Joe Louis Arena, and the last time the Pens skated the JLA ice surface, it was with the Stanley Cup above their heads and champagne in their eyes.

This is as good as it gets for any regular season game that the Red Wings have played in March over the past 20 years or so.

The defending Cup champs, in town for the only time this season. The Red Wings with the memories of the Penguins celebrating the winning of hockey's Holy Grail in the Wings' own building. A playoff spot squarely on the line for the Winged Wheel.

This is one night when the adage is a lie: that "the regular season don't matter in the NHL!"

Like hell it doesn't.

There are no throwaway games left now. No more mulligans. Every point is precious. A two-game losing skid can kill you. A three-game winning streak might lift you a few spots in the standings, just like that.

As for Sparty, they live to fight another day---specifically this Friday against Northern Iowa, who just happen to be the belles of this year's ball.

Ice ran in the veins of "Luscious Lucious" as he took a pass, glanced at the hoop, decided against firing, then calmly dribbled and took a couple steps to his left before lining up his game-winning triple.


It would have been a horrible loss; the Spartans had the Terrapins by 15 points with less than ten minutes to go in the game. A late 80-71 lead evaporated like spilled water on a Phoenix sidewalk.

Three key games over the weekend for the Red Wings and Spartans. Three heart-stopping buzzer beaters. Three happy (mostly) endings.

It's mad, I tell you!

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