The Pittsburgh Penguins' Top 10 Playoff Moments of the Sidney Crosby Era
Impact Meter: 5.5 out of 10. Everyone loves free candy!
9. The Pittsburgh Boy Buries Ottawa
The Man: Ryan Malone
The Game: 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two
The Situation: The Penguins, who had won the first game easily, also jumped out to a formidable 3-0 lead against the Senators in the second game. Power play goals from Sergei Gonchar and Petr "Turbo" Sykora, many fans in attendance began to believe that the series was going to be as simple as everyone thought.
After all, Bryan Murray had just accused the Penguins of "tanking" a few days before so that they could play the struggling Senators in the quarterfinals.
But after allowing the first seven goals of the series, Ottawa responded with two goals of their own at the end of the second period. Then, unheralded rookie Cody Bass slammed the game-tying goal past Marc-Andre Fleury half way through the third. All of a sudden, the given was no longer that.
With time evaporating off the clock and overtime seeming inevitable, FSN commentator Paul Steigerwald couldn't help but point out that only a year ago, the Penguins had stolen a game from the Senators in Ottawa in Game Two.
Upper St. Clair native Ryan Malone had other ideas.
A high-sticking call on Martin Lapointe sent out the Penguins vaunted power play with a minute left in play. The locals controlled the faceoff and with one smooth move behind the net, Malone beat goaltender Martin Gerber to the far post, giving his Penguins a vital 4-3 lead.
Impact Meter: 6.5 out of 10. It might not have won the series by itself, but it gave the Penguins all the confidence in the world before heading to Ottawa, while a nearly polar opposite effect could be seen on the Senators bench.
The Man: Max Talbot
The Game: 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Six
The Situation: Things weren't looking good for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They had just been shut out on home ice by the arch-rival Flyers and suddenly found themselves tripping through a minefield at the Wachovia Center.
The Flyers scored two late goals in the first period, one by Penguin-killer Mike Knuble and the other by Joffrey Lupul. A slashing penalty to Sidney Crosby just made things worse, as Danny Briere immediately capitalized on the ensuing power play to put the Broad Street Bullies up by three. A game seven at Mellon looked very, very likely.
But at least if he was manning a sinking ship, Max Talbot was going to go down swinging. Literally.
It took him no time whatsoever to ask former teammate in Wilkes-Barre, Daniel Carcillo, to drop the gloves and have a go. A spirited bout by the Superstar, which was in no way won by Talbot, but the fight immediately woke his teammates up. The events that transpired over the next period and a half were almost unbelievable, as the Penguins came back to eliminate Philadelphia.
Impact Meter: 7 out of 10. Did it change the game in such a dramatic fashion that all four Penguin goals to follow were because of the fight? We'll never know. But the results are undeniable.
7. "Banked It In" off Chris Osgood
The Man: Adam Hall
The Game: 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, Game Three
The Situation: Clinging to a one-goal lead and having to kill off multiple Detroit power plays, everything was amplified inside Mellon Arena. Every hit was enormous, every shot on goal could make such a difference. There was no other way around it - the Penguins needed to win Game Three.
If Detroit managed to level the score at two or lord forbid, take the lead, the Penguins hopes of winning a Stanley Cup would have been all but vanished.
Michel Therrien sent out his grinders, with the likes of Gary Roberts and Adam Hall, to combat the suddenly ridiculous physical nature of the game. A deafening sequence at the Igloo where nobody could even hear themselves think, Roberts put a monstrous hit on Andreas Lilja, then proceeded to get to work around the Red Wings net.
An initial try from Hall hit off the outside of the netting but the crafty fourth liner didn't give up and banked the puck in off the back of Chris Osgood.
Impact Meter: 8 out of 10. Adam Hall just didn't score goals. He had only scored twice in the regular season, but none of that mattered. He had scored a game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup final to breath instant life back into the Penguins.
6. April Showers Bring May Flowers
The Man: Marc-Andre Fleury
The Game: 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game Seven
The Situation: It was electric. Truthfully, the entire series had been, but there's nothing in sports like a Game Seven in the playoffs. Sudden death facing both combatants, and the raucous Red Rockers at the Verizon Center wanted to do everything they possibly could to propel their Capitals to victory.
After all, they had just stolen a game from the Penguins a few nights before and had to carry a lot of the momentum. By the philosophy in Washington, 2008 was the Penguins turn at glory. Now was the Capitals shot.
But from sudden death to sudden life, Marc-Andre Fleury managed to deflate the massive balloon built up inside the Phone Booth with one fell swoop of his glove hand.
It was like slow motion, only it wasn't. Alexander Ovechkin took the puck at center ice and just blew past defenseman Rob Scuderi in alone on goal. Fans around the Verizon Center stood in anticipation of what they surely felt would be the first goal of the game. Who else? The man who would lead them to the promised land, of course he can convert a breakaway, can't he?
Except it was Pittsburgh's White Knight, standing up to the league's top scorer while silently delivering the message that "it's my time".
Impact Meter: 8.5 out of 10. Momentum killer extraordinaire, did "The Save, Part II" pave the road to a 6-2 Penguins victory? Perhaps it did, perhaps not. But one thing is certain - from that point on, the Capitals collectively dropped to the ground like they had been shot.
5. Cam Ward Just Lost His Liquor License
The Man: Evgeni Malkin
The Game: 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, Game Two
The Situation: Game Two of the ECF was a complete see-saw affair. Goals were being scored seemingly at will and from all positions of the ice. About as anti-playoffs as you might see, five goals were scored in the first 12 minutes of play at the Igloo.
Suddenly, scoring on Cam Ward, who had only just out-dueled Martin Brodeur and Vezina-winner Tim Thomas, wasn't such a big deal. It was keeping the Cardiac Canes off the scoreboard. Leading 4-3 going into the final stanza, Fleury allowed a quick goal to Patrick Eaves. But almost like someone had changed the channel inside Mellon Arena because they realized they were missing an episode of the Malkin Show, No. 71 took over.
"I'm going to lead us to the Stanley Cup finals," said Malkin.
With the chants of "Geno, Geno, Geno!" echoing around the arena, Malkin bagged his second goal of the game to give the Penguins a 5-4 with a little more than half a period to play in regulation time. He surely saved his best tricks for last, however.
A simple faceoff win in the offensive zone, Malkin dragged the puck around the back of the net aaaaaand...oh my word!
Impact Meter: 8.5 out of 10. As much as Malkin's hat trick won the game for Pittsburgh, it very well might have also won the war. It aggressively stamped the thought of "you can't stop me" in the head of the Carolina Hurricanes and really set the tone for where the series would go.
The Man: Tyler Kennedy
The Game: 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, Game Four
The Situation: Game Four was the turning point. Everyone knew it. A year ago, the Detroit Red Wings came into Mellon Arena and won it en route to a Stanley Cup victory. If the Penguins wanted to prevent history from repeating itself, they would need to level the series.
The Penguins opened the second period tied at 1-1, but that didn't last long. An innocent looking shot from the point by Brad Stuart eluded Fleury to give Detroit the vital lead. With every passing minute after that, a Penguins victory was looking less and less likely. A parade to the penalty box gave the Red Wings consecutive power play chances to work with and having Brooks Orpik in the sin bin was no help whatsoever.
That's where it all changed.
Malkin started it off by breaking in shorthanded only to be half tackled, half knocked off the puck by a backchecking Mule. The Red Wings weren't so lucky the next time, as Jordan Staal picked veteran Brian Rafalski's pocket before scoring the biggest goal of his career.
The avalanche continued to pile on just two minutes later as another odd-man rush developed, this time with Sidney Crosby and Malkin breaking in on a 2-on-1, ending in Captain Crosby's first goal of the Stanley Cup finals.
But the biggest back-breaker of them all occurred later in the period.
Impact Meter: 9 out of 10. Another turnover by the tired Red Wings capped off possibly the greatest single period in Penguins history. It was a passing clinic that happened so quickly, Doc Emrick couldn't even keep up with the play. A series winning play? Perhaps.
3. He Called His Own Shot
The Man: Petr Sykora
The Game: 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, Game Five
The Situation: Yawn. A game that started at 8pm EST, the Red Wings had one thing on their mind. The Stanley Cup. With a golden opportunity to win the title in their own building, and it was looking more and more like reality as time ticked off the clock in the third period.
Goals from Rafalski, Darren Helm and Pavel Datsyuk helped eliminate an early 2-0 Penguins lead and were a mere ten minutes from lifting the cup. But it's never that easy. With less than a minute to play, the Penguins pulled the goaltender and sent out an extra attacker. It remarkably paid off, as Max Talbot scored the game-tying goal with 35 seconds remaining, denying Detroit at least for a little while longer.
One overtime period wasn't enough to settle it. Neither was the second.
Into the third overtime, both teams had been forced to kill penalties. But Jiri Hudler's flailing stick caught Rob Scuderi in the face, drawing blood and a four-minute penalty. By that time, it was already well after midnight, it was the wily veteran sniper Petr Sykora who said he would get the game-winner.
Nearly 110 minutes of clock time into the game, he delivered on his promise and fired the puck over Osgood's shoulder.
Impact Meter: 9.5 out of 10. Because he called his own shot and then fulfilled his promise. Epic.
2. Instant Life
The Man: Kris Letang
The Game: 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game Three
The Situation: Coming back home, the Penguins were in an unenviable position of being down 2-0 in the series and needing a miracle to swing the momentum.
Even worse, the Capitals had taken an early lead thanks to an empty net goal from Ovechkin, where Fleury completely misplayed the puck only to have it bounce out to the stick of the Rocket Richard winner. Although the Penguins did manage to take a lead, they were denied by Nicklas Backstrom scored on the power play with two minutes to go, sending the first game of many in the series to overtime.
Spine-tingling action ensued in the fourth period, with both teams having glorious chances to score. Everyone in Pittsburgh held their collective breaths, knowing that any one shot could be their demise. Going down 3-0 in a series would be impossible to come back from.
A simple faceoff after extended pressure on Semyon Varlamov saw the puck won back to the point.
Impact Meter: 9.5 out of 10. Ping! If he does not score this goal, the Penguins don't win this series or the Stanley Cup, it's that simple.
1. Out With the Old, In With the New
The Man: Marc-Andre Fleury
The Game: 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, Game Seven
The Situation: No words are required.
Impact Meter: 10 out of 10.
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