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Pittsburgh Penguins: 15 Iconic Moments in Pens History

Michael SchoeffelContributor IIIAugust 20, 2011

Pittsburgh Penguins: 15 Iconic Moments in Pens History

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins are no strangers to memorable moments.

    They've been one of the most successful teams in the NHL over the last 20 years, making the playoffs 16 times and winning three Stanley Cups. Along with team success, they've also had a slew of elite players with the ability to create a highlight-reel play at any given moment.

    One particular player shows up on this list multiple times (You can probably guess who it is.). But some of the most historic moments in Penguins history have come from unexpected players, such as a backup goaltender and a little-known defenseman.

    Without further ado, here are 15 iconic moments in Penguins history.

15. "Deuling Hat Tricks"

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    The Setting

     Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals at Washington; the Pens trail in the series 1-0.

     

    What Happened

     Two of the NHL's biggest stars, Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, notched three goals a piece.  The Pens lost the game 4-3, but would go on to win the highly-competitive series in seven games. 

     

    Why It's Important

     The NHL is always happy when its stars put on an entertaining show for all of America to see. This game showcased two of the world's greatest players performing at a world-class level in front of a television audience.

14. Super Mario Provides Some Foreshadowing

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    The Setting

    Oct. 11, 1984 at Boston; the first game of the regular season.

     

    What Happened

    On the first shot in his very first shift, Super Mario notched the first goal of his career against Boston goaltender Pete Peters. "Mario Lemieux living up quickly to all the advertisement," proclaimed the Penguins' play-by-play announcer. 

     

    Why It's Important

     It gave Penguins fans a taste of what was to come and wrote an unforgettable first chapter in Lemieux's storybook career. He would go on to break virtually every Penguins scoring record, despite battling Hodgkins disease and other physical ailments. 

    When Lemieux retired for the first time in 1997, the NHL waived the three-year waiting period usually required for a player to reach the Hall of Fame. It's frightening to think of how off the chart his numbers would have been had he been healthy his entire career.   

13. Letang's Howitzer

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    The Setting

     The Pens were down 0-2 in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Capitals. They were clinging to a 2-1 lead late in Game 3 when the Capitals lit the lamp with 1:50 remaining and sent the game to overtime.

     

    What Happened

     Crosby won a key faceoff in the offensive zone and glided the puck to Mark Eaton on the wing. Eaton served it up to Letang, who blasted a one-timer from the point that bounced off a Washington defender and past goaltender Semyon Varlamov for the victory.

     

    Why It's Important

    Letang's goal kept the Pens from going down 3-0 in the series. The momentum catapulted the Pens to victories in three of the final four games of the series and, eventually, a Stanley Cup title.

12. Pens Shock the Top-Seeded Devils

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    The Setting

    Game 7 of the 1999 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at New Jersey; the top-seeded Devils were heavy favorites after finishing the regular season with 47 wins and 105 points (compared to the Penguins' 38 wins and 90 points).

     

    What Happened

    The Pens jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but surrendered a rebound goal to Dave Andreychuk late that cut the difference to 3-2.  

    A few minutes later, Martin Straka took advantage of sloppy passing and a poorly-timed line change to stretch the lead to 4-2. Straka celebrated by sliding across center ice with his feet and arms flailing wildly in the air.

     

    Why It's Important

    It knocked the rival Devils out of playoff contention and sent the Penguins on to the second round of the playoffs.

11. The Pens Win Their 16th-Straight Game with Style

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    The Setting

    April 9, 1993 at New York Rangers; the Penguins are poised for an NHL-record 16th-consecutive win.

    Earlier that year, Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease after going to the doctor with back problems. He would sit out almost two months, but returned on March 2, his last day of radiation treatment.

    At the time, the Pens were four points behind the Canadiens for the top spot in the NHL, and Lemieux was 12 points behind Pat Lafontaine in the race for the Art Ross. On March 9, the Pens would begin a winning streak for the record books.

     

    What Happened

    Lemieux tallied five goals, and the Penguins crushed the New York Rangers, 10-4.

     

    Why It's Important

     It gave the Penguins an NHL-record 16 consecutive victories. The streak was stretched to 17 on the following night at home against the Rangers, but ended with a tie the last game of the season to the New Jersey Devils.

    To this day, the 1992-1993 squad owns the record for most regular-season wins in franchise history with 56.

10. Lemieux Racks Up Eight Points in a Playoff Game

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    The Setting

    Game 5 of the 1989 conference semifinals against Philadelphia; series tied 2-2.

     

    What Happened

    The Penguins jumped out to 6-1 lead in the first period behind four goals from Super Mario. He went on to add one more, as well as three assists, to bring his point total to eight.

     

    Why It's Important

    Lemieux's eight points in a playoff game is an NHL record not likely to be broken anytime soon. The win also put the Penguins up 3-2 in the series, although they would go on to lose the final two games.

9. Oh, Petr!

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    The Setting

    Game 4 of the 1996 conference quarterfinals at Washington; the Pens trail the series 2-1, and the game is tied 2-2 in the fourth over time.

     

    What Happened

    Petr Nedved threw a wrister into traffic from the blue line. Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig was shielded on the play, and the puck slipped by him to give the Penguins a 3-2 victory.

    It was Nedved's second goal of the contest.

     

    Why It's Important

    It evened the series at 2-2 as the teams headed back to Pittsburgh. The Pens would go on to capture the final two games for a 4-2 series victory, but they would go on to lose the Panthers in seven games in the conference finals.

8. Malkin's Otherworldly Backhand Goal Against the 'Canes

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    The Setting

    Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals against Carolina; the Pens are up 1-0 in the series and lead 5-4 with less than eight minutes to go in the game. 

     

    What Happened

    Evgeni Malkin put on a one-man clinic from the beginning of the play. He won a faceoff in the offensive zone, snuck around behind the goaltender, curled around the side of the net, threw on the breaks and flicked a no-look backhand into the top right corner of the net. 

     

    Why It's Important

    It gave Geno the first playoff hat trick of his career. It also gave the Pens a two-goal cushion in a game that had pretty much been back and forth since the start. 

    Pittsburgh would go on to sweep the series and win the Stanley Cup against Detroit.

7. Darius Kaspar, Who?

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    The Setting

     Game 7 of the 2001 conference semifinals at Buffalo; after back-to-back overtime contests in Games 5 and 6, the Penguins once again found themselves deadlocked after regulation. 

     

    What Happened

    Darius Kasparaitis, a defenseman not known for his skill with the puck, fired a wrister past future Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek to give the Penguins a Game 7 victory.

     

    Why It's Important

    It sent the Pens to their first conference final since 1997, and it also gave Kasparaitis a rare moment in the spotlight. His game-winner that night was the second playoff goal of his career and also his last; the 14-year vet retired in 2007 with only 27 goals in 863 regular-season games. 

6. Lemieux Scores Five Goals in Five Different Ways

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    The Setting

    New Year's Eve 1988 against New Jersey. 

     

    What Happened

    Lemieux scored a goal in all five possible ways: even strength, shorthanded, power play, penalty shot and empty net.     


    Why It's Important

    It's a feat that's not likely to be equaled any time soon. 

    It's rare that a player even gets a chance to score in such a diverse array of situations, much less capitalize on those chances. Another unforgettable performance in Lemieux's amazing NHL career.

5. Lemieux "Dekes the Whole World"

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    The Setting

    Game 2 of the 1991 Stanley Cup finals against Minnesota; the Penguins trail 1-0 in the series. 

     

    What Happened

    After taking a pass from a teammate, Lemieux crossed the center line with two North Stars defensemen in front of him.

    He deked to the left, causing one defender to over-commit, which opened a gap between the defenders.  Lemieux flicked the puck through the legs of the baffled defenseman, sent the goaltender flailing to his left by bluffing a forehand shot, slammed on the brakes and slipped a backhand into the net.

     

    Why It's Important

    Other than being one of the most difficult goals in NHL history, it provided a spark that would last the rest of the series. The Pens would go on to win Game 2 4-1 and take three of the next four to win their first Stanley Cup.

4. "The Save"

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    The Setting

    Game 6 of the 1991 conference quarterfinals at New Jersey; the Pens trail the series 3-2. Starting goaltender Tom Barrasso is out with an injury, so the young Frank Pietrangelo is forced to make the first playoff start of his career.

     

    What Happened

    Pietrangelo gave the Penguins a chance to win, stopping 28 of 31 shots and making an outstanding glove save known simply as "The Save" to preserve the win for the Penguins.

     

    Why It's Important

    Not only did it keep the Pens alive in the playoffs, but it also gave them momentum to finish off the Devils at home in Game 7.

    It also gave Pietrangelo some much-needed big-game experience, as he would go on to start four more times in the 1991 playoffs, winning three.

    Of course, the Pens would go on to win their first Stanley Cup that year.

3. The Pens Draft Sidney Crosby

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    The Setting

    July 30, 2005; the NHL entry draft at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa.

     

    What Happened

    After a lockout cancelled the season in 2004-2005, the NHL held a lottery to determine the order of the draft.

    The Penguins lucked out and drew the first pick. They took Crosby, a junior league legend dubbed "The Next One," and the rest is history.

     

    Why It's Important

    Crosby saved hockey in Pittsburgh.

    The Pens finished fifth in the Atlantic Division during the three seasons prior to the lockout. Those dismal seasons were even harder to swallow because they came on the heels of 11 consecutive playoff appearances.

    Despite posting 102 points as a rookie, Crosby wasn't able to right the ship immediately (the Pens finished fifth again in his first season). However, Pittsburgh would go on to reach the playoffs in every season after Crosby's rookie campaign, appearing in two Stanley Cups and winning one.

    Over that span, Crosby was named team captain. He won a scoring title and an MVP in his second season, and a goal-scoring title in his fifth season.

2. The Pens Crush the North Stars for Their First Stanley Cup

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    The Setting

     Game 6 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals at Minnesota; the Penguins lead the series 3-2.

     

    What Happened

    The Penguins dismantled the North Stars on Minnesota's home ice behind four points from Mario Lemieux and a perfect night from Tom Barrasso (39 saves).

    Larry Murphy, Jim Paek, Ulf Samuelsson, Ron Francis, Bob Errey and Lemieux all tallied a goal a piece. Joe Mullen added two.

     

    Why It's Important

    It gave the Penguins the first Stanley Cup in franchise history and started a dynasty of sorts.

    The Pens would go on to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions in 1991-1992, then go nine straight years without missing the playoffs. They weren't left out of the NHL's Big Dance again until 2001-2002, when they finished fifth in the Eastern Conference

1. Fleury Seals a Stanley Cup Victory

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    The Setting

    Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals at Detroit; the Penguins lead 2-1 with seconds remaining in the third period and are forced to take a faceoff in their zone.

     

    What Happened

    The Red Wings won the faceoff and quickly threw a shot on net. Fleury deflected the puck to Nicklas Lidstrom, who was wide open because Craig Adams had left his assignment in an attempt to block the first shot. 

    Lidstrom picked up the rubber in the faceoff circle and appeared to have enough open net to notch the game-tying goal, but Fleury quickly recovered and threw his body in front of the puck to secure the victory. 

     

    Why It's Important

    It preserved the third Stanley Cup victory in franchise history and exacted revenge on the Red Wings, who had beaten the Penguins in the Finals the year before. 

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