After most emotions have calmed down and championship hangovers have finally passed, how are you dealing with the withdrawal symptoms creeping in? Let me help you — and myself — over the hump. Here are the 10 most memorable games since the day Sidney Crosby first took the ice as a Pittsburgh Penguin.
10. Coors Light Stadium Series, Blackhawks vs. Penguins, March 1, 2014
Just a mere week removed from capturing Olympic Gold alongside each other in Sochi, Crosby and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews would face-off for the first time in their respective NHL careers. Due to injuries and different scheduling before the 2013-14 realignment, the two captains hadn’t met on NHL ice to this point.
In this memorable contest, Chicago outlasted Pittsburgh, 5-1. The score, however, wasn’t the story. During the first period, the game had to be interrupted several times to clean the sheet from snow. Players lost the puck and plowed through snow piles all night as the weather made for a unique setting. Welcome to Winter Wonderland!
For those interested: There are also full game videos for a few of this list on YouTube!
9. Penguins vs. Rangers, November 15, 2014
In my humble opinion, this was the best game between the Rangers and the Penguins in recent years. It was so exciting, making you bite your nails and especially bizarre in the end. Both goalies played outstanding. Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-André Fleury kept a game that could have become a very high-scoring contest close.
This match experienced more momentum swings than a pendulum clock. Keep it in good memory, folks:
Oh, how did you like that Evgeni Malkin hit on Dan Girardi?
8. NHL Winter Classic, Penguins vs. Capitals, January 1, 2011
Not the best memories, right? A capacity crowd at Heinz Field saw the Capitals spoiling the Pens’ signature season event in multiple fashions. On one hand, they took the game, 3-1. On the other hand, David Steckel caught Crosby’s chin with his shoulder, as he was accelerating out of his own zone.
Crosby played one more game that season — four days later, against the Lightning. He then suffered from devastating concussion symptoms for the next 11 months after absorbing another violent hit, courtesy of Victor Hedman.
This day will always be cemented in Crosby’s legacy, for better or worse. Thankfully, he eventually recovered from these blows.
7. Game Six, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Islanders vs. Penguins, May 5, 2013
What I best remember from that game is having trouble to catch a whole sentence by the play-by-play announcer. What a crowd to play in front of, the Islanders fans were going bonkers right from the puck drop. It was an amazing game to watch, you felt like you were in that house from afar.
The Isles going up by two early on only made the media’s job even worse. The Pens eventually won in overtime after Chris Kunitz sniped his second goal of the night behind Evgeni Nabokov on a power play midway through the first OT.
At this point, I tip my hat to the goals by Kyle Okposo (3-4) and John Tavares (4-4). That was some world-class execution right there and you just give credit where it’s due.
6. Game Six, Eastern Conference Semifinals Penguins vs. Capitals, May 10, 2016
Game six against the Capitals was the most nerve-wracking Penguins game all spring. On their way to their fourth Stanley Cup Championship, the Penguins had to eliminate the regular season’s best team and they did just that on this night.
Phil Kessel’s two goals gave the Pens a jump-start and Carl Hagelin’s 3-0 goal added to the lead. T.J. Oshie gave the Caps life late in the second, but the hometown team was still comfortably ahead heading into the third. Mr. Big Game, Justin Williams, would cut the remaining deficit in half a good seven minutes into the third.
Then, things got weird. In a 2:02 span, the Penguins’ Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino and Ian Cole were all guilty of delaying the game. John Carlson tied the game on the ensuing power play and kept his team alive for overtime.
There, Jay Beagle came up with the marquee save of the 2016 post-season, when he kept Patric Hörnqvist’s shot from crossing the line in utter desperation. Bonino, Bonino, Bonino, Bonino wouldn’t be denied, however, as he eventually sent the Pens’ fan base into a frenzy just a few minutes later.
5. Game Three, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Flyers vs. Penguins, April 15, 2012
That series had everything — 314 total penalty minutes, 56 goals, monstrous hits, fights, hat tricks, double-digit wins and some of the wildest momentum swings in NHL history. It was an entire post-season compressed into six games and any given one of those contests could be on this list. The Flyers won the battle, but they were so exhausted from this series. They fell in five games to the New Jersey Devils in the next round.
Game three of Pennsylvania’s Playoff-Battle stands out because of the amount of viciousness on the ice (158 total penalty minutes handed out). Tempers flared all over the place and even Crosby and Kris Letang both got involved in a fight. James Neal had two goals, one of which was an absolutely incredible effort. He somehow managed to get around two defensemen on his way to the net.
Philly, though, won the game 8-4 and took a commanding 3-0 series lead from which the Pens eventually wouldn’t recover.
4. Game Four, 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Flyers vs. Penguins, April 18, 2012
The following game was complete madness. Seven goals stood on the scoreboard after the first period, three for Philly and four for the Pens. Then, Jordan Staal took care of business. His hat trick, culminating in a sizzling short side wrister while playing shorthanded, powered Pittsburgh to its most recent double-digit victory.
The Pens wouldn’t allow the Flyers’ sweep, went home and won game five as well. They fell to their bitter rivals back in Philadelphia in game six, however.
Here’s a full highlights recap of these legendary pieces of hockey mastery. Enjoy re-living the most compelling playoff series I can remember:
3. Game Two, Eastern Conference Semifinals Capitals vs. Penguins, May 4, 2009
Yes, you’re correct, that’s the game of dueling hat tricks. Finally, the Crosby vs. Ovechkin rivalry culminated in a playoff series and the two superstars didn’t disappoint. It was a battle for the ages. The monsters took over and put one of the most memorable performances in NHL history on display in Game 2 of their second-round series.
Pittsburgh would win that series in seven and go on to win the franchise’s third Stanley Cup.
Enough said, see for yourself:
2. The Cup-Clinching Games
I have to cheat a little, here, because who wants a Top 11? I have to admit, I hate uneven numbers. It’s kind of my neurosis. Also, I won’t dare to put one Stanley Cup above another, because they’re both equally memorable and it takes a lot for these games not to make the top of the list. I’m responsible for surprising you a bit with the top choice since I’ve promised you so in the link’s meta description. Ha!
Back to business. Game seven of the Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings is particularly memorable because of the fact that Crosby couldn’t finish the game. He injured his knee and was watching most of the game from the bench. Max Talbot became a Penguins legend with his two goals which were enough for Marc-André Fleury to seal the deal.
After allowing an early third-period goal, he shut the door on the Red Wings, and Nicklas Lidström in particular, with two seconds left. What’s the first thing you think about when hearing Fleury’s name?
Yes, that’s right. That save:
In 2016, the Penguins didn’t need their goalie to save them in the end. They just outplayed the San Jose Sharks in their own building for the last 20 minutes, allowing just two shots on goal. Matt Murray, the Pens’ rookie goaltender, stopped them easily.
Crosby assisted Letang, who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in the second period, 1:20 after Logan Couture had tied the game. The Sharks couldn’t find a way to get the game even and Hörnqvist added an empty-net goal to put the game away with a minute to go.
1. Surprise, Surprise
So, what does it take to outdo two Stanley Cup clinching games atop a list of the most memorable games in a players’ era, then?
Words are not enough. Thank you for reading!