12 Days of Penguins: The Top Ten Moments of the Decade
There have been no shortages of special moments for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the past decade.
Penguin fans have indeed experienced it all, from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.
No more introduction is needed for this, here are the Top 10 Penguin moments of the decade.
10. Marc-Andre Fleury rejects Ovechkin on a breakaway
Game 7 Eastern Conference Semifinals 2009
The NHL got everything it could have ever dreamed for—a game seven between the league's two premier superstars. After back-to-back games that were won by the visiting team in overtime, Marc-Andre Fleury stunned the Verizon Center crowd early in the first period.
With Alexander Ovechkin streaking in on a breakaway after an unusual error by shutdown defenseman Rob Scuderi, Fleury showed him the glove side then took it away in one quick swipe.
The Red Rockers, who were poised to celebrate, couldn't believe what they just witnessed.
In one second, the Capitals could have taken the early lead. If Ovechkin scored on that play, who knows what direction the decisive game would have gone. But they could never recover from the deflating save, as the Penguins blasted into the Conference Finals 6-2.
9. Adam Hall banks in the game-winning goal off Osgood
Game 3 Stanley Cup Finals 2008
With the series shifting back to Pittsburgh after the Penguins had lost both of the opening game in Detroit, a win was absolutely necessary if they wanted to keep the dream alive. But they didn't just lose both games at Joe Louis Arena, they were outscored 7-0 as well.
The Penguins however, took a 2-1 lead into the third period. After a deafening sequence of hitting at the Mellon Arena, it was Adam Hall who made the difference.
Adam Hall doesn't score goals. He played only 46 regular season games and scored twice in that time. At 28 years young, Hall had played for three separate teams since joining the Penguins in 2007. But in the Stanley Cup, when the Penguins needed a jump the most, it was Hall to the rescue.
Buzzing around the goal, his initial try hits the outside of the netting, but on the second chance, he made it count.
"Fed in front for Adam Hall, hit the outside of the net with the shot! Hall again...BANKED IT IN! And it counts! "
There aren't many goals that will give you more goosebumps than this one.
Game 6 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals 2009
Every single sign in Game Six pointed to a decisive game. The Flyers had everything going their way. Trailing 3-0 at the Wachovia Center, the Penguins looked like they were playing in quicksand.
That's when Max Talbot steps up and asks Daniel Carcillo to fight. As for the fight itself, Talbot didn't win it. And the Flyer fans got even louder after seeing their man wrestle Talbot to the ice. But skating over to the penalty box, Talbot made a simple, yet powerful gesture.
While his fight certainly didn't quiet the Philadelphia crowd, the momentum he gave to his teammates for a tremendous showing of heart absolutely did as they ran off five unanswered goals.
Game 7 Eastern Conference Semifinals 2001
When you think of Darius Kasparaitis, you think of fights, toughness and borderline hits. While he certainly provided that during his time as a Penguin, possibly his most memorable moment came in a different role.
The Penguins scored late in the third period of game seven to force an overtime with the Buffalo Sabres. But with seven minutes left in the first OT period, Kasparaitis took a feed from Robert Lang and buried a wrist shot to win the series.
Following his tremendous goal, he went into a now-famous head first dive, followed by all of his teammates jumping on him.
6. Mario Lemieux announces that the Penguins will remain in Pittsburgh
March 13, 2007
What was a normal regular season game between the Buffalo Sabres and Penguins (that the Penguins won 5-4 in a shootout), the most exciting part of the game in fact happened before the puck even dropped.
"Tonight, I am proud to announce that your Pittsburgh Penguins will remain right here in Pittsburgh, where they belong! "
A special announcement before the game by owner Mario Lemieux easily drew the largest ovation of the night. Finally, the dispute was over.
The Penguins would be getting a new arena and staying in the Steel City for at least the next 30 years. And the hockey world would be spared from seeing the Kansas City Scouts, Part II.
5. Tyler Kennedy scores a tic-tac-toe goal
Game Four Stanley Cup Finals 2009
The Mellon Arena crowd thought they had seen everything. Jordan Staal scored shorthanded against a team that just doesn't give up shorties. Crosby and Malkin combined for a beautiful two-on-one goal to take the lead over the Red Wings.
But that was only the warm up.
To complete possibly the best single period of hockey ever delivered by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tyler Kennedy stole the puck from Henrik Zetterberg at the blue line.
Dropping it off for Kunitz, nobody could keep up with the puck. Not Chris Osgood or the announcers. It bounced from Kunitz, to Crosby, back to Kennedy and into the net in less than two seconds.
There are very few times that one singular play could win a series. But in a total act of defiance against the Red Wings dominance, the Penguins pulled off a play that no defense could have stopped.
4. Petr Sykora calls his own shot in triple overtime
Game 5 Stanley Cup Finals 2008
Stealing all the momentum in Game Four, the Red Wings went back to Detroit with the chance to win the Stanley Cup in Game Five. They were sitting pretty up three games to one.
But the Penguins had other ideas, even if it would take into the early morning hours.
In the third overtime period, Detroit took a sloppy four-minute penalty for high sticking, giving the Penguins an ideal opportunity to force another game. Quite conveniently, they also had a wildcard. Sniper Petr Sykora said earlier that he would get the game winner.
Sykora took an initial feed from the point and missed wide. But Malkin took the puck behind the net and fed it back out to Sykora again, but he didn't make a mistake. With 10:04 left in the third overtime period, the Penguins could finally breath a sigh of relief.
3. Evgeni Malkin completes the hat trick with a ridiculous spin-o-rama
Game 2, Eastern Conference Finals 2009
A season before, Evgeni Malkin was an invisible man late in the playoffs. In 2009, it was the complete opposite. Against the Hurricanes, Malkin was next to untouchable. If you couldn't see it, he was surrounded by a shield of fire that prevented defenders from getting within five feet of him.
"He had it in his head that he was going to dominate. And that's exactly what he did, " said Bill Guerin. Malkin just didn't dominate on offense, he was a back-checking nightmare that even to this day, Carolina coach Paul Maurice still has no idea how to defend against him.
But in Game Two, he cemented his status as a clear Conn Smythe candidate. With two goals to his name in a 5-4 hockey game, Malkin wins the faceoff and the rest was history. Taking the puck around the net, he spins around and launches a backhander over the shoulder of Cam Ward.
Absolutely no chance.
2. Mario Lemieux returns to the ice after a three-year absence
December 27, 2000
After the 1997 season, it was unclear if Mario Lemieux would ever play hockey again. Battling complications of cancer, Lemieux was forced to retire from the game, and almost immediately had his number retired by the Penguins as he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
As written by Newsweek, "Posterity will never forget that no athlete —not even the sainted Lou Gehrig —has ever before Lemieux been struck down by a deadly disease at the very moment when he was the best of his sport he would ever be, " said Frank Deford.
At the time of his retirement, Lemieux was the only player in the history of the NHL to ever average over two points per game.
But three years later, as the Penguins were playing at an extraordinarily high level, Lemieux made the decision to try it again and return to the team.
In a day where maybe only a thousand people showed up early to the rink for the pregame skate, the night of Lemieux's return gathered nearly a full house just to see the great No. 66 on the ice again.
At that point, the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs wasn't even important.
His inspiring recovery from illness from a deadly disease gave hope to fellow cancer survivors everywhere. It also helped that he picked up a goal and three points in his return, taking a beautiful feed from Jagr to score in a Penguins rout.
1. The Penguins win the Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena
Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals 2009
As the seconds slowly melted off the clock, it came down to one face-off to the left of Fleury with 6.5 seconds remaining. Although Jordan Staal lost it, Fleury made two saves, perhaps none better than a diving stop against Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom as time expired.
With that final stop, the Penguins could finally rejoice.
The Stanley Cup had return to Pittsburgh for the first time in 17 years. Sidney Crosby became the youngest Captain to ever raise Lord Stanley's fabled grail. In one single moment, the Penguins completed a fantasy run from the end of February through June.
A moment of ecstasy, a moment of vengeance, and a moment that let all the tension out at last. There's no greater feeling than being in utopia.
June 12, 2009 is a date that will be in the minds of Penguin fans for a very long time.
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