The exquisite torture of sudden-death overtime hockey in the playoffs. Consider the Carolina Hurricanes.
One moment you're setting up a power play, hoping to use the man advantage to buzz the Edmonton Oilers' net and get a good shot or a lucky bounce to win the Stanley Cup in your home arena. The next you're committing a hideous turnover at the blue line.
And the one after that the Oilers are mobbing one another, the Cup is going back into its case, you're looking at a 2,500-mile plane ride to Edmonton and you're one road loss away from having to play a Game 7, the ultimate sudden death, while riding a two-game losing streak.
Fernando Pisani of the Oilers pounced on an indecisive crawler of a clearing pass from Cory Stillman, skated in alone on Carolina goalie Cam Ward and beat him high on the glove side for the shorthanded game winner at 3:31 of overtime.
The goal, Pisani's second, gave Edmonton a 4-3 win in a game that started with a wild, penalty-filled, five-goal first period bookended by Oilers tallies 16 seconds in and 17.4 seconds from the end, then turned into a tight defensive struggle for the next 40 minutes, Carolina tying it midway through the second period when Eric Staal whacked away at a rebound enough times to finally move it from behind goalie Jussi Markkanen's pad for the power-play score.
The teams combined for 24 shots in the first period, 22 over the last two.
Game 6 is Saturday in Edmonton, hockey night in Canada. The Hurricanes still have the advantage, up three games to two and already owning a win in Edmonton in Game 4, but all of a sudden it's a series again.
Markkanen, an injury replacement for starter Dwayne Roloson, who was injured in Game 1, has settled down and is playing well, making a couple of big saves in the third period to stave off Hurricane threats.
If Edmonton can just get its power play together, this could really be a series. The Oilers did convert one Wednesday, on eight tries, improving their overall success rate from 4 percent to 6.
It's a rule of thumb in hockey, as much as in any sport, that if you have a chance to put an opponent away, you'd better do it, because things can change so fast. So fast. The turnaround caused by Stillman's bad pass was stunning. It's the speed at which fortunes can change, not the speed of the puck or the players, that's hockey's greatest draw and greatest challenge.
One moment's hesitation. They don't call it sudden death for nothing.
World Cup: Prior planning for peak performance [PERMALINK]
OK, what? During injury time in the Ecuador rout of Costa Rica Thursday morning, Ivan Kaviedes scored for a 3-0 lead.
Then he reached into his shorts, pulled out a yellow Spider-Man wrestling mask and put it on for a moment.
Now that's planning. Just in case I score a goal today, I'm going to stuff a wrestling mask in my jock.
I thought I was coming to a better understanding of soccer, but the mask thing really took me by surprise. I hadn't known there were masks in soccer.
I wonder if Kaviedes regretted his plan as soon as he got the mask on. I mean, that thing had been in his shorts for 90-plus minutes of running around. My advice to young soccer players: If you're going to put a wrestling mask in your drawers and put it on when you score, score early.
Kaviedes may eventually regret the move to the extent that FIFA disciplines him for it.
I like the mask thing better than that robot dance English striker Peter Crouch does when he scores a goal.
I also liked Germany's 1-0 win over Poland Wednesday, a thrilling finish, with Oliver Neuville knocking home the winner in injury time after Germany had hit the crossbar on back-to-back shots in the 90th minute.
No rooting interest -- I think the Kaufman family tree reaches back to both Germany and Poland, but I feel no connection to either -- just a heck of a finish, especially with the home crowd going crazy.
Starting to get it. Sometimes you have to wait and wait and wait, and sometimes it's not worth it. Sometimes it is.
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