10 Biggest Playoff Goals in Pittsburgh Penguins History

Steve Rodenbaugh@rodeyslContributor IIIOctober 19, 2013

10 Biggest Playoff Goals in Pittsburgh Penguins History

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Having won 30 playoff series and three Stanley Cups since their inception in 1967, the Pittsburgh Penguins have had their share of postseason success and the drama that goes with it.

    While last year's playoff run didn't end the way that Pens fans had hoped and hockey experts had expected, it always helps to look back at great postseason moments in Pens history as we look forward to more great moments and big goals in the future.

    As Pens fans enjoy the team's early season success this season and hope for another run at the Stanley Cup, let's look at, from oldest to most recent, the 10 biggest playoff goals in Pittsburgh Penguins history.

Mario Lemieux Outshines the North Stars

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    Having missed the postseason the previous season as the result of an overtime loss on the last day of the season, the 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins entered the Stanley Cup playoffs looking to advance past the second round for the first time in franchise history and challenge for the Stanley Cup.

    Despite dropping the first game of each series, the Pens advanced to the Stanley Cup Final to face the Minnesota North Stars

    After again dropping the first game at home, the Pens were in danger or having to go on the road down 0-2 in the series. 

    That is until Mario Lemieux took a puck at center ice in the second period with the Pens clinging to a one-goal lead.

    Charging up ice against North Stars defensemen Shawn Chambers and Neil Wilkinson, Lemieux split the pair by dragging the puck through Chambers' skates before deking goaltender Jon Casey, who had come out to challenge him, and depositing the puck in the back of the net.

    Inspired by Lemieux's magic, the Pens would go on to win the series in six games to bring the Stanley Cup back to Pittsburgh.

    In addition to being remembered for Lemieux's timeless goal, this series also marked the first and only time that two 1967 expansion teams would meet in the Stanley Cup Final and was the first time since 1983 that an American team had won the Stanley Cup.

Jaromir Jagr Backhands the Blackhawks

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    Entering the 1992 Stanley Cup Final looking to repeat, the Penguins faced off against the tough and battle-tested Chicago Blackhawks who had swept their last two opponents and won a then-NHL-record 11 straight games.

    Playing a punishing brand of hockey against the Pens, the Blackhawks jumped out to a 4-1 first-period lead and stymied the Pens with aggressive forechecking.

    After a power-play goal by Rick Tocchet and a deflection goal off of goaltender Ed Belfour by Lemieux, the Pens had closed the gap to 4-3 midway through the third period when second-year player Jaromir Jagr took center stage.

    Picking up a loose puck on the left half-boards in the Chicago zone, Jagr stick-handled through the Blackhawks defense before backhanding a shot through the legs of Belfour to tie the game and shake the Civic Arena to its foundations.

    While Lemieux would put the finishing touches on the comeback by depositing a rebound into the Chicago net with just seconds to play, Jagr's amazing individual effort demoralized the Blackhawks, who never recovered and went on to be swept in four games.

Luc Robitaille Lights a Fire in the Igloo

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    Facing the Washington Capitals for the third time in four postseasons, the 1994-95 Penguins squared off against a familiar foe who relished the opportunity to end the Pens' season as they had the year prior.

    After splitting the first two games in Pittsburgh, the Pens were embarrassed in back-to-back 6-2 losses and faced a do-or-die situation in Game 5.

    After a back-and-forth contest which extended into overtime, fan favorite Frankie Leroux picked up a loose puck and carried it down the right side of the Capitals zone.

    Despite pressure from Steve Konowalchuk of the Capitals, the 6'6" Leroux was able to use his long reach to flip the puck toward the goal crease where Luc Robitaille directed it past Capitals goaltender Jim Carey to extend the series and the Pens' season.

    The Pens would go on to win 7-1 in Game 6 in Washington and 3-0 back home in Pittsburgh, marking the second time in four years that they overcame a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Capitals. 

    To add insult to injury, the Pens would again face the Capitals in the postseason the following year and, despite losing the first two games at home, would win four straight games, including the next game featured on this list, to close the series.

Petr Nedved Ends the Filibuster in Washington

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    After losing the first two games at home, few gave the Penguins a chance to stage a dramatic comeback in their 1996 series with the Washington Capitals, but that's exactly what happened.

    After winning Game 3 in Washington in impressive fashion by a score of 4-1, the Pens were looking to stay on a roll and go back to Pittsburgh with a tied series.

    Unfortunately, things didn't start well. Lemieux was given a game misconduct for fighting, and the game went back and forth and was tied after regulation and three tense overtime periods.

    Finally, midway through the fourth overtime, the Pens were able to break through after 139 minutes and 15 seconds of hockey as Petr Nedved picked up a loose puck at the left faceoff circle and fired a wrister through traffic that eluded Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig.

    After blowing a 2-0 series lead and suffering through a heartbreaking defeat in the fifth-longest game in NHL history, the Capitals couldn't recover and lost the series in six games.

Jaromir Jagr Resists the Devils

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    Following Lemieux's retirement in 1997, Jagr became both the leader and the face of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    However, the question remained as to whether Jagr could lead the Pens deep into the playoffs as Lemieux had, and a first-round ouster by the Montreal Canadiens in 1998 only raised more doubts.

    Facing the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the 1999 Stanley Cup playoffs, Jagr was given another chance to answer the critics, but a nagging groin injury hampered him for much of the series.

    In Game 6 in Pittsburgh, with the Pens trailing both the series and the game 3-2, Jagr proved to the doubters that he was up to the challenge by scoring a late, game-tying goal to send the game to overtime.

    With the Civic Arena crowd rocking, Jagr completed the comeback by taking a pass from Martin Straka and wristing it past a diving Martin Brodeur to win the game and send the series back to New Jersey for Game 7, which the Pens would win 4-2

    While Pens fans remember the goal as saving the series and the season, few realize that it may have saved the Penguins and possibly kept the team from moving to Kansas City.

Martin Straka Stuns the Capitals

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    From 1992 to 2001, the Pittsburgh Penguins would face the Washington Capitals six times in 10 seasons and would win five of those series.

    While the Pens were the favorite to advance most of those times, the Capitals had been the favorites in 2000 before going down to the Pens in five games.

    Seeking revenge, the Capitals got their chance the following season and once again were the favorites against the Pens who had added with a healthy Lemieux, who had returned from retirement in December of 2000.

    After splitting the first four games, the Pens took a 3-2 series lead with a 2-1 win in Washington which set the stage for a tension-filled Game 6 on home ice. 

    After a back-and-forth slugfest, the game went to overtime, where Straka forced a turnover against future-Pen Sergei Gonchar and wristed a puck past Kolzig to win the game and the series in six games.

    While the Pens advanced to the Eastern Conference Final before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup winner New Jersey Devils, the Capitals did get a measure of revenge as Jagr forced a trade and was sent to the Capitals in July of 2001.

    Mercifully for Pens fans, Jagr would not face the Pens in the playoffs until 2008 when he was a member of the New York Rangers team that fell to the Pens in five games.

Darius Kasparaitis Denies the Dominator

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    Of all of the talented players on the 2000-01 Pittsburgh Penguins roster, Darius Kasparaitis would probably have been the last player one would expect to score a big playoff goal, but that's exactly what he did against the Buffalo Sabres.

    After the Pens and Sabres split the first four games with each team winning on the opponent's ice, the Sabres were able to take the series lead with a 3-2 overtime win in Buffalo.

    With their backs against the wall at home in Game 6, the Pens were able to stave off elimination as Lemieux scored in the final minute of regulation to tie the game before Straka won it in overtime with the score, once again, 3-2.

    In Game 7 in Buffalo, the Pens and Sabres traded goals and were tied 2-2 at the end of regulation before heading to a third straight overtime game.

    With the teams trading chances, the game was finally settled when Robert Lang picked up a loose puck, skated into the Buffalo zone and found a wide-open Kasparaitis in the slot.

    With the game on his stick, Kasparaitis fired a wrist shot past Dominik Hasek, ending the Sabres' season and starting a mob scene at center ice.

Petr Sykora Calls His Shot

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    Sometimes, when a team has its backs against the wall, it takes one player stepping forward to make all the difference.

    In Game 5 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, that one player was Petr Sykora.

    Signed by new Pens general manager Ray Shero from the Edmonton Oilers, Sykora was a perfect fit playing on Evgeni Malkin's right side and had tallied 28 goals in the 2007-08 season.

    Trailing the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 in the series and facing the daunting challenge of winning in Joe Louis Arena, the Pens looked doomed until Max Talbot scored to tie the game with 35 seconds remaining to force overtime.

    In a back-and-forth game, the Pens and Red Wings were each unable to get the deciding goal through the first two overtime periods.  

    During the first overtime intermission, Sykora predicted to his teammates that he would get the game-winning goal.

    While players making bold predictions isn't a rarity, making that prediction come true is, and Sykora's wrist shot from the right faceoff circle at the 9:57 mark of the third overtime gave the Pens the win and sent the series back to Pittsburgh.

    While the Pens would ultimately lose the series to the Red Wings, Sykora's called shot gave a young team confidence that it could win in Joe Louis Arena, a confidence which it would need the following year in the rematch.

Jordan Staal Rewrites the Script

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    Through the first three games of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins and Red Wings had seemingly repeated the script from the 2008 Stanley Cup Final.

    In both series, the Red Wings had jumped all over the Pens in Joe Louis Arena in blowout wins with the Pens responding with wins at home in Game 3.

    Halfway into the second period of Game 4 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, it looked as if history was going to keep repeating itself as the Red Wings enjoyed a 2-1 lead, the same score from their Game 4 win in 2008.

    Then the script changed. With the Red Wings on the power play, Max Talbot picked up a loose puck along the boards and passed it to Jordan Staal as he headed through center ice.

    With Red Wing defenseman Brian Rafalski hanging on, Staal lowered his shoulder and took the puck from his backhand to his forehand and slid the puck past Chris Osgood low to the blocker side.

    With the trajectory of the series completely changed, the Pens would score two more goals that period to take Game 4 before winning the series and the Stanley Cup in Game 7 in Detroit.

    Which brings us to the final goal on this list...

Max Talbot Stuns Hockeytown

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    While big players are expected to make big plays in the postseason, sometimes the biggest plays are made by players you don't expect.

    Talbot was certainly one of those players having been a role player and penalty-killer early in his NHL career.

    A relentless forechecker and puck chaser, Talbot earned a spot on the second line alongside Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko and responded with eight playoff goals, good enough for third on the team behind only Sidney Crosby and Malkin.

    With the series on the line in Game 7 in Detroit, Talbot used the biggest stage to show that not only great players are capable of making great plays.

    Having already scored the game's first goal off of a Red Wings' turnover and with Sidney Crosby sidelined with a knee injury, Talbot took a pass from Chris Kunitz and skated up ice with Tyler Kennedy on a two-on-one break.

    With the poise of a 50-goal scorer, Talbot settled the puck and wired a wrist shot over the glove of Red Wings goaltender Osgood and into the top corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.

    Although the Red Wings would cut the lead in half with a late goal, the Pens would hang on to win Game 7 and bring the Stanley Cup back to Pittsburgh.