History of Penguins' Conference Finals Trips
Dave DiSanti is a long-time Pittsburgh Penguins fan and good friend of Faceoff Factor’s Matt Paul.
1991 – Penguins over Boston in Six
The jubilation of reaching the team’s first Wales Conference Final in 1991 had to be somewhat blunted by the fact that the Pens had only scored six wins in Boston’s fabled Garden in their last fifty games. Despite Head Coach Bob Johnson measuring the rink to show it was not all that much different from any other sheet of NHL ice, the Pens would be thoroughly beaten 6-3 in Game One. In Game Two, Mario Lemieux would give the Pens a hollow lead, but an unprecedented 5-3 power play for the B’s allowed them to tie the game lat in the third before Boston grinder “Rosy” Ruzicka scored in OT. After the game Kevin Stevens vowed the Pens would sweep the rest of the series and backed in up with a big goal in a Game Three win at the Civic Arena. In the same game Pens tough guy Ulf Samuelson had a, lets call it a knee-to-knee “collision”, with all-star Bruin power forward Cam Neely, battering him for the rest of the series.
Not having the appropriate footwear to assault Badger Bob, Mike Milbury instead referred to the Pens coach as a “Professor of Goonism”, a comment Johnson took as a “declaration of war” against the Penguins. The Pens would continue to win the battles on the ice as they took Game Four at home and watched Massachusetts native Tom Barrasso turn aside 34 shots in a lopsided 7-2 victory on Garden ice two nights later. At home for Game Six the Pens would claw back from a 2-0 second period deficit to tie the game in the third before twenty three year old Mark Recchi buried a one-legged wrist shot from the top of the circle behind Andy Moog to give the Pens a lead they would never give up. Lemieux iced the game with an empty netter then proceeded to disregard any curse about touching the Wales Conference Championship trophy by skating it around the ice before a rocking Arena crowd ready to move on to the team’s first Stanley Cup Championship series.
1992 – Penguins over Boston in Four
A rematch of the 91 Wales Championship series saw the Pens enter the series down captain Mario Lemieux, still recovering from the broken hand suffered from the slash by the Rangers Adam “John Wilkes” Graves. Secondary scoring came up huge in regulation of Game One at the Civic Arena as Bryan Trottier, Jacque Calander, and Sean McEachern all scored to force overtime. Twenty year old Jaromir Jagr would score his second of four career playoff OT winners in the extra session, the only OT goal in Pens Conference final history. Mario would return in Game Two and score in the Pens victory but it would be Boston native Kevin Stevens who would steal the show in Game Three, scoring four goals in a lopsided win. The Bruins sent captain Raymond Bourque’s number to the rafters in 2001, but in Game Four Mario Lemieux left the Hall of Famer’s jock strap hanging from the ceiling scoring one of the most beautiful goals of his career. Shorthanded, Mario picked off a pass, smoked past Adam Oates and dragged the puck between Bourque’s legs before shaming Moog with a wrist shot under the crossbar. The tally helped ice away a Penguins sweep of the Bs and earned the Pens a second straight trip to the Stanley Cup final.
1996 – Florida over Penguins in Seven
Rats. With a thriving offense and multiple Stanley Cup rings, Penguins fans were looking to dispatch of the road bump Florida Panthers quickly in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals, but clutch-grab hockey, brilliant goaltending by John Vanbiesbrouck, and thousands of plastic rats would be enough for the Cats to sneak by the Pens. After Ken Wregget let up five goals in a Game One home loss, Tom Barrasso made thirty saves in a tight 3-2 victory to even the series at 1-1. Despite getting outshot 97-52 over the next two games in Miami the Pens managed a split before Barrasso shutout the Panthers back on Igloo ice in a 3-0 win. The Pens failed to ice the Cats back in Florida for Game Six as ex-and-future Penguin Martin Straka and Rob Neidermeyer scored goals in the third period, causing Barrasso to seek shelter in his net from a hailstorm of plastic rats and giving the Panthers life with a 4-3 win. Game Seven at the Mellon Arena saw the Pens fire forty shots at Panther netminder John Vanbeisbrouck, but only a Petr Nedved goal found the marker. Third period goals by Tom Fitzgerald and Johann Garpenlov would give the Panthers a lead they would not relinquish, and the Florida won Game Seven 3-1 and with it the Eastern Conference championship.
2001-New Jersey over Penguins in Five
Mario Lemieux’s comeback season saw the Pens clinch their first two round victories with dramatic overtime goals against Washington and Buffalo, but by the time the Penguins reached the swamps of New Jersey and the Eastern Conference Finals, the magic was gone. The Devils’ suffocating defense led by future Hall of Famers Martin Broduer, Scott Neidermeyer, and Scott Stevens, as well as the otherworldly two-way-play of John Madden kept the Pens from registering more than 23 shots in any of the five games. After dropping Game One in New Jersey, Devil Killer Aleksey Morozov scored and Mario added two assists in a 4-2 Game Two victory. Back at the Igloo before 17,000 yellow-antlered Pens fans, Martin Broduer would pitch back-to-back shutouts in Games Three and Four. The series would end two nights later in Game Five back in New Jersey at the Devils routed the Pens 4-2 to clinch a mercifully short five game victory.
2008- Penguins over Flyers
If you are reading this blog you obviously remember last year shellacking of the hated Flyers. Geno’s big rip on the breakaway, TK dropping the gloves, Hossa’s Game Three dash, and the Pens Game Five barrage all contributed to a five-game dismantling of the oh so well Mike Richards led (just ask Pierre!) Flyers. Much of that same crew is now looking to make lightning strike twice and move on to the Penguins second consecutive Eastern Conference Championship…