Great Moments In Penguins vs. Capitals Playoff History
Thanks to the events of Tuesday night, as the Capitals and Hurricanes advanced in their game 7 victories, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals will be taking part in a playoff series that could very well consume us all. We've seen playoff series' get hyped before, but nothing will come close to the tidal wave of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin coverage that is about take the NHL by storm. Consider yourselves warned.
Before we look ahead to the madness, let's take a few minutes and remember the glory days of one of the best playoff rivalries the 1990's ever produced.
This will be the eighth time the Penguins and Capitals have met in the postseason, with Pittsburgh winning six of the previous series' (1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001) while the Capitals claimed victory in 1994. Obviously, during the better part of the 1990's it was pretty much a given that these two teams would be meeting in the postseason, and it almost always involved on-ice and off-ice anarchy. Let's hit up some of the better moments.
1991-92: The First Comeback
This was an opening round series (and a re-match of the Penguins' five game victory in 1991) that saw Washington race out to a commanding 3-1 series lead, highlighted by a 7-2 thumping in game 4 in Pittsburgh. Following that dismantling, the Penguins shut down the Capitals with a variation of the left-wing lock, outscoring them by a 14-7 margin over the final three games on their way to a second consecutive Stanley Cup.
1993-94: Washington Wins
Washington eliminated Pittsburgh in the opening round -- in six games -- with the three-headed goaltending monster of Don Beaupre, Byron Dafoe and Rick Tabaracci, shutting down the Penguins' high-powered offense. Pittsburgh scored just 12 goals in the six-game series.
1994-95: The Second Comeback
For the second time, the Capitals had Pittsburgh in a 3-1 series hole only to have the Penguins roar back to win it in seven games. I have no memory of anything interesting that happened in this series, other than the comeback.
1995-96: Petr Nedved Lets Us Go To Sleep At 2:00 AM
The highlight of the 1995-96 series was the epic game 4 in Washington. Not only did Penguins goalie Ken Wregget stop Joe Juneau on a penalty shot (in overtime!) but it was also one of the longest playoff games in NHL history, ending at roughly 2:00 AM ET when Petr Nedved scored in the fourth overtime.
Following that game, the two teams returned to Pittsburgh for game 5 where things turned somewhat biblical between the benches. With Pittsburgh leading, 4-1, Penguins forward Alek Stojanov squared off with Washington's Mark Tinordi in a fight that resulted in Stojanov taking a royal beating on the ice. Meanwhile, chaos erupted between the benches when Penguins assistant coach Bryan Trottier and Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld nearly ate one another.
Of course, this scene could not play out in today's NHL because NBC would have Pierre McGuire stuffed between the benches raving about Mike Richards' leadership ability. The best part of that clip, however, is clearly the kid in the black and gold Dr. Seuss hat, watching as if he's at the zoo and witnessing two lions kill each other over the last piece of meat. Welcome to the playoffs, kid. He's most likely 25 years old today and probably still hates Michal Pivonka with every fiber of his being.
1999-2000: "We'll Give 'Em All Seven Games In Pittsburgh"
Underrated series in the rivalry. Because of a scheduling conflict at Mellon Arena (I think it involved either a really bad concert or a circus) the series would begin in Washington for one game, and then shift back to Pittsburgh for two games, and then shift back to Washington for three. Capitals head coach Ron Wilson was livid with the decision, and prior to the start of the series uttered the infamous words: "We'll give 'em all seven games in Pittsburgh and we'll beat them anyway."
Perhaps it was an omen, perhaps it was just a coincidence, but the Penguins won the first game in Washington by seven goals (7-0) and then proceeded to win the series in five games.
2000-01: Moose Tracks
This was the year Mario Lemieux came out of retirement and, after not playing in three years, registered 76 points in 43 games. It was also the year the Penguins traded for a minor league goaltender at the trade deadline named Johan Hedberg. He stole the show for the Penguins in the playoffs, helping lead them to the Eastern Conference Finals.
As the Penguins dispatched Washington in six games, Hedberg allowed only 10 goals in the series, and became a cult hero of sorts in Pittsburgh due to his blue mask that featured the logo of the Manitoba Moose (his minor league team). Every time Hedberg would stop a shot, Penguins fans would take part in a "Moose" chant that echoed throughout the building. It ultimately led to one of the worst playoff giveaways in the history of organized sports, as the team started passing out foam moose antlers at games. Just a terrible, terrible idea in hindsight.
Who knows what this year's meeting has in store, but if history is any indicator, we're in for a treat.