5 Moments You Should Never Mention to a Pittsburgh Penguins Fan
The Pittsburgh Penguins have had some ups and some downs in their history.
Having experienced everything from bankruptcy to championship parades, the Penguins and their fans have seen it all.
While Pens fans love to relish in the team's successes, they would like to purge from their collective minds some of their disappointments and shocking moments.
Since in sports, as in life, you have to know how to take the good with the bad, let's look at five moments you should never mention to Pittsburgh Penguins fan.
Marc-Andre Fleury’s Pad Save for the Red Wings
While Marc-Andre Fleury has been the talk of the offseason due to his recurring playoff struggles, Pens fans would like to forget the first time Fleury's propensity for letting in soft goals first appeared.
Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals.
Having struggled in the first two games in Detroit, the Pens looked to be in over their heads against a seasoned, veteran Red Wings team. After falling behind 3-1 in the series, the Pens were able to avoid elimination with a 4-3 win in triple overtime on a goal by Petr Sykora.
With Game 6 at home, the Pens were hoping to pull even and send the series back to Detroit but fate had other plans. Already trailing 2-1 in the third period, the Pens could not afford to give up another goal, much less a soft goal.
Unfortunately, that's just what they did as Henrik Zetterberg took a shot from the left face-off circle which Fleury seemed to control. However, the puck squirted from between his pads and slowly rolled toward the net.
Fearing the puck might go in, Fleury attempted to lie backward across the puck but inadvertently pushed the puck back into his own net for a 3-1 Red Wings lead and, what would be, the Stanley Cup-winning goal.
Tom Fitzgerald’s Long-Distance Prayer Is Answered
While the Penguins and their fans have endured some heart-breaking playoff disappointments, few have been as devastating as the loss to the Florida Panthers in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals.
With Mario Lemieux returning after a one-year absence, the Pens returned to the top of the Eastern Conference. With four players totaling 99 points of more, the Pens seemed unstoppable as they rolled past the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers before running head first into the upstart Florida Panthers.
After blowing a lead in Game 6 and a chance to close out the series, the Pens returned home for Game 7 hoping that home-ice advantage would help them finally put the Panthers away.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.
Trailing in the third period and struggling to generate scoring chances, the Pens were unable to put the puck past goaltender John Vanbiesbrouk until Petr Nedved scored 1:23 into the third period to tie the game. With the hometown crowd cheering and sensing that the Pens would pull it out, Tom Fitzgerald, a member of the 1992-1993 Islander teams, then quieted the Mellon Arena with a 58-foot slap shot (38:50 of the video) that beat Pens goaltender Tom Barrasso at the 6:18 mark of the third period.
The Pens never recovered and the Florida Panthers would advance to the Stanley Cup Finals only to be swept by the Colorado Avalanche.
Adam Graves Slashes Mario Lemieux
Going into their second-round matchup against the top-seeded New York Rangers in the 1992 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Penguins knew it would a hard-fought and nasty series.
What they didn't know is that they would lose their captain and the defending Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Mario Lemieux, to a vicious slash by Adam Graves (30-second mark of the video).
Having won Game 1 in Madison Square Garden and looking to take a 2-0 series, the Pens and their fans watched Lemieux, and seemingly their chances as repeating as Stanley Cup Champions, fall to the ice.
While no one knew the severity of the injury at the time, Lemieux would miss the rest of the series, and players such as Ron Francis were forced to step up in his absence.
Fortunately, this dark cloud did produce a silver lining as the Pens, down 2-1 in the series, were able to pull off a remarkable win in overtime of Game 4, having tied the game late on a fluky neutral-zone shot by Francis.
Lemieux would return against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final; the Pens would go on to win the series and the Stanley Cup.
The Day Jaromir Jagr Forced a Trade
Speaking of Nicaraguan-strongman Anastasio Somoza, Franklin Roosevelt once famously remarked, “He may be a son of a bitch but he’s our son of a bitch.”
While that term may seem a bit harsh to apply to former Penguin Jaromir Jagr, it does reflect the sentiments that many Pens fans had for the talented but enigmatic forward before he forced his way out of Pittsburgh.
Drafted in the first round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, Jagr became an immediate star in the NHL and a fan favorite in Pittsburgh. As a vital part of back-to-back Stanley Cup championship teams and the heir apparent to Mario Lemieux, Jagr seemingly had everything a player could ask for.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.
Despite the hiring of Czech Republic national team coach Ivan Hlinka and the acquisition of as many Czech players as seemingly possible, Jagr still wasn’t happy. Forced with sharing center stage after Mario Lemieux’s return in 2001, Jagr demanded a trade and the Pens reluctantly agreed to move him.
Carrying a massive salary and having been branded a coach-killing malcontent, Jagr saw his value tumble, and the Pens were only able to acquire three prospects from the Washington Capitals in return.
To paraphrase “Pittsburgh Dad,” the trade that sent Jagr to the Capitals was the moment Jaromir went from being Jagr to being just another “jag.”
Penguins Shocked by the New York Islanders in the 1993 Playoffs
It’s been said that the higher the expectations, the bigger the disappointment.
If that’s true, then the overtime loss to the New York Islanders in Game 7 of the second round of the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs was one of, if not the most, disappointing moments in Penguins history.
Coming off of back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning seasons, the Pens and their fans had good reason to be optimistic. After blowing past the New Jersey Devils in five games, the top-seeded Pens faced the upstart New York Islanders, who had upset the second-seeded Washington Capitals in the first round.
Despite a slow start in the series, the Pens were able to rebound and take a 3-2 series lead before imploding in Game 6, losing 7-5 to extend the series to a seventh and deciding game.
Back on home ice, the Pens played a tentative game, and the Islanders would go on to win the game on an overtime goal by David Volek.
Although the franchise would win a third Stanley Cup in 2009, the 1992-1993 Pens team was without a doubt the greatest team in franchise history, and their epic playoff failure remains a sore subject for Pens fans.