PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans will have plenty to celebrate this summer in the wake of a Stanley Cup championship.READ MORE: Pittsburgh Weather: Dry Conditions And Warm Temperatures Expected Thursday
From overcoming the New York Rangers, to clinching the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup in San Jose, there were plenty of memorable moments.
Here’s a look at our top 10:
No. 10 – Jeff Zatkoff Gets Nod In Playoff Opener
It may seem like a long time ago and can be easily forgotten due to the brilliance of Matt Murray, but it was Jeff Zatkoff who got the Pens off on the right foot in the playoffs.
With Marc-Andre Fleury and Murray not available, the Penguins turned to Zatkoff for the first two games against the New York Rangers in the first round.
The Penguins were looking for revenge after being eliminated by the Rangers in each of the previous two years.
Zatkoff stepped up with a 35-save performance as the Penguins won 5-2.
No. 9 – Hornqvist Hat Trick
While Zatkoff was busy shutting down the Rangers in Game 1 at one end, Patrick Hornqvist was burning out the goal light at the other end.
Hornqvist put the Penguins up 1-0 with just 18 seconds to go in the first period. Henrik Lundqvist required some medical attention after being struck in the eye by Marc Staal’s stick moments before the goal.
The goal was only the beginning of the damage Hornqvist would inflict upon the Rangers that night.
With the Penguins leading 3-1 in the third period, Hornqvist put the game away with a power play goal. He went on to complete the hat trick with an empty netter in the final minutes. It was the first playoff hat trick of his career.
He also added an assist on Sidney Crosby’s second period breakaway goal.
No. 8 – Kessel’s Bad “Breath”
Phil Kessel was a force in the playoffs, leading the team in goals (10) and points (22). But, one of his most memorable moments came during the Eastern Conference Finals.
Following a 4-2 win in Game 3 that put the Penguins up 2-1 in the series, NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire interviewed Kessel on the bench.
Throughout the game, Kessel was shown hunched over on the bench trying to catch his breath after shifts.
During the post-game interview, McGuire innocently asked Kessel, “How’s your breath?”
His response was hilarious:
Best Pierre interview ever. pic.twitter.com/tMhWsnmSyg
— Doc Emrick (@DocInRealLife) May 19, 2016
The next day, Kessel’s teammates dressed up his locker with a bottle of Listerine and some gum.
For all that “bad breath”… pic.twitter.com/YDYfp7ABy1
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 20, 2016
No. 7 – HBK Line
When the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, they had three incredible lines that caused matchup nightmares for opponents.
Flash forward to 2016 and the Penguins had a superstar on each of the top three lines. Every night, teams were forced to put their third pair of defense against either Crosby, Kessel or Evgeni Malkin.
Each line offered something different, but the speed, forechecking power and goal scoring threat of the line featuring Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Kessel was something to behold.
The line came together down the stretch in the regular season due to an injury to Malkin. It was quickly dubbed the “HBK Line.”
Their regular season success carried over into the playoffs, as they combined for 56 points in 24 games.
The original HBK, WWE’s Shawn Michaels, caught wind of this and a social media campaign was born. Michaels’ became a Penguins fan because of the HBK Line and was even invited to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
While the Penguins lost the game, Michaels continued to follow from afar.
He even had a special message for the Penguins and their fans after winning the Stanley Cup.
From one HBK to another…https://t.co/9xnwIuHQjv
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 16, 2016
The HBK line was so good that Primanti Brothers even named a sandwich after them!
No. 6 – The Rise Of Matt Murray
Prior to this year, Patrick Roy, Ron Hextall and Cam Ward were the only rookie goaltenders to win 15 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
You can now add Matt Murray’s name to the list.
Of those four, Hextall was the only one to not win the Stanley Cup.
Anyway, Murray was given an opportunity to shine because of a late-season concussion suffered by Marc-Andre Fleury. He seized the opportunity and stared down some of the NHL’s best goaltenders in the playoffs.
In the playoffs, Murray was 15-6 with a 2.08 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Not bad for a guy that turned 22 years of age in the Stanley Cup Final.
Arguably, his best performance in the playoffs came in Game 3 against the Washington Capitals. The Penguins had earned a split on the road and were back home for a pivotal Game 3.
The Penguins were largely outplayed in the contest. Hockey is a funny sport and despite being outshot 28-14, they led 3-0 lead after two periods – thanks to Murray.
Washington threw everything they had at Murray and the Penguins in the third period. While they scored twice, Murray added 19 saves in the period to preserve the lead.
Murray’s 47 saves in the game set the franchise record for a regulation playoff victory.
While he struggled a bit against the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, he was incredible in the final two games, stopping 44 of 47 shots.
One final note on Murray’s playoff run – He was 6-0 after a loss.
No. 5 – Stanley Cup Game 5 Crowd & Victory Parade
The Penguins last won the Stanley Cup in 2009, but fans were sure eager to see it return to Pittsburgh.
Thousands of people showed up to watch home playoff games outside of CONSOL Energy Center. The crowds grew larger as the Penguins marched closer to the Stanley Cup.
That set the scene for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, where the Penguins had a chance to eliminate the Sharks and trigger a massive party.
The crowd grew so large that a second screen was set up in Market Square. Roughly 20,000 people watched the game on the two screens.
While the Sharks ruined the evening with a 4-2 win, Penguins fans would get to celebrate in record numbers a few days later.
More than 400,000 people packed the streets for the Penguins’ victory parade. It was the largest sports parade in Pittsburgh history!
Sidney Crosby was one of a few Penguins who saw the amount of people that attended the parade in 2009.
“It means a lot. It’s exactly how I remember it. I think it’s even bigger this time. You guys are what make it so special to play here. It’s a special town. Obviously, this group of guys, we wanted it bad. We were disappointed in Game 5 we didn’t get it done, it wasn’t a happy plane going to San Jose. But we knew we had to get it back here,” he said.
No. 4 – Bonino, Bonino, Bonino!
Nick Bonino scored some big goals for the Penguins during the playoffs. But, they will forever be remembered because of the Hockey Night Punjabi crew.READ MORE: Hempfield Area School District Opening Pre-K Classroom Through State Grant
It all started with Bonino’s goal in Game 1 against Washington.
— Hockey Night Punjabi (@HkyNightPunjabi) April 29, 2016
The incredible call by play-by-play man Harnarayan Singh originated because of a wonderful mistake.
“I had Bonino written down for left wing, center and right wing and my producer and colleagues were all, ‘Oh, Bonino, Bonino, Bonino,” Singh said. “It just came out. The adrenaline was pumping. It was such a big goal.”
So, you can only imagine how excited Singh got for Bonino’s overtime winner in Game 6 that eliminated the Capitals.
— Hockey Night Punjabi (@HkyNightPunjabi) May 11, 2016
By now, the Bonino calls had gone viral. The Hockey Night Punjabi crew was ready for some more Bonino magic in the Stanley Cup Final.
His dramatic late goal in Game 1 broke a 2-2 tie and the Penguins held on to win. This may be the best Bonino call to date and we can only hope to hear many more:
— Hockey Night Punjabi (@HkyNightPunjabi) May 31, 2016
The Penguins and their fans embraced the Hockey Night Punjabi crew immediately. When the Penguins celebrated their Stanley Cup championship, the Punjabi crew was invited to Pittsburgh to be part of it.
“The people on the street, Pens fans. They’ve been amazing, just the nicest people,” Janda said. “They’ve had a great impact on us as well. It’s kind of opened up the language. A lot of people maybe didn’t know what Punjabi was, and now we’re able to share our language with people that may have not heard it, or didn’t know much about it and we’ve loved every second of it.”
The City of Pittsburgh had such a positive effect on the Punjabi crew that they penned a letter to the fans earlier this week.
The heartfelt letter thanked the city and Penguins fans for the “warmth and hospitality” they received. They ended the letter by saying, “We may live in Canada, but we are now Pittsburghers!”
No. 3 – Crosby Drawing Up Sheary’s OT Winner
Overtime hockey in the playoffs is an edge of your seat thrill ride. The game can literally end at any moment and it hardly ever goes as planned.
Unless you’re Sidney Crosby.
Crosby didn’t score the winning goal in overtime of Game 2, but he called it perfectly.
Just over 2 minutes into the overtime there was a faceoff to the right of Sharks goaltender Martin Jones. Before Crosby lined up for the draw, he told Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin to switch spots.
The reason? He said he was going to win the faceoff back to Letang at the left point. Crosby’s instructions also dictated that Letang not shoot the puck.
Enter Conor Sheary’s role and marching orders from Crosby.
Crosby told Sheary to line up along the wall to his left. He further detailed that Sheary was to find the soft spot in coverage after the faceoff and look for a pass from Letang.
The play worked to perfection. Crosby won the draw, Letang found Sheary all alone and he rifled the puck over Jones’ glove to put the Penguins up 2-0 in the series.
It was a huge goal in the series, but it was made even more remarkable by Crosby’s quick thinking.
No. 2 – Rust In Game 7
In 2009, Max Talbot scored two goals against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Those two goals cemented his legacy in Pittsburgh sports.
In 2016, Bryan Rust cemented his with two goals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
While Rust’s goals didn’t necessarily win the Stanley Cup, the Penguins may not have won it without his efforts.
Rust’s breakaway goal in Game 6 against the Lightning was a thing of beauty and erased any doubt of a Tampa Bay comeback.
In Game 7, Rust once again stepped into the spotlight with the biggest goals of his career.
The first came just 1:55 into the second period and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy over the glove to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
Later, Ben Lovejoy fired a shot just wide of the left post. The puck rebounded off the boards on the same side of the net. Vasilevskiy was unable to handle it cleanly and Rust jammed it home for the eventual game-winning goal.
The goal came just 30 seconds after Jonathan Drouin had tied the game.
The win marked the first time the Penguins had won a Game 7 on home ice since moving to CONSOL Energy Center.
It was also the first time they had won a Game 7 since the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.
No. 1 – Penguins Win Fourth Stanley Cup
The obvious choice for the top moment is the Penguins actually winning the Stanley Cup. It’s what every other moment on this list led to.
The Penguins were clearly unhappy with failing to clinch on home ice. They were the dominant team from the opening faceoff.
With a 2-1 lead entering the third period, it was do or die for the Sharks. But, the Penguins played arguably their best third period of the playoffs.
They held the Sharks to just two shots in the third period. Think about that. San Jose could only muster two shots on goal with their season on the line. Plus, one of those came after Patric Hornqvist iced the game with an empty net goal.
It was the best of times.https://t.co/din6GwCBfb
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 14, 2016
The Penguins only allowed 19 shots on net in the game. Of course, blocking 33 others played a big part in that, but I’m sure Murray wasn’t complaining.
When the final horn sounded, the celebration began. The objective of winning 16 games in the playoffs had been achieved. The hardest trophy in sports to win was theirs.
One of the long-standing traditions in hockey is for the captain to be the first one presented with the Stanley Cup. But, another is the tradition which player gets it next.
Usually, it’s reserved for players that have been around for a while that have never won it all.
The most famous handoff was in 2001, when Colorado’s Joe Sakic skated over to Ray Bourque. Sakic didn’t raise the Cup before handing it to Bourque. It took Bourque 22 years to achieve his lifelong dream and it’s one of the most incredible moments in NHL history.
So, who would Crosby hand it to this time? Many assumed that Pascal Dupuis would get it for obvious reasons.
But, it was Trevor Daley that had the honor of being handed the Cup first.
Daley has played more than 800 games in the NHL and had never won the Stanley Cup. While that may have been part of the equation, there was a much bigger reason.
After the game, it was revealed that Daley’s mother is battling cancer.
“Daley had played for such a long time [and he] hadn’t really even had a chance,” Crosby said. “He had been through some different playoffs, but getting hurt at the time he did, knowing how important it was, he had told me that. He went and had seen his mom in between series. She wasn’t doing well. She wanted to see him with the Cup. That was important to her. I think that kind of stuck with me after he told me that.”
It was an incredible moment for everyone involved.
Another tradition is to drink champagne out of the Stanley Cup. The Penguins did plenty of that in the locker room after the game.
This might be the greatest video ever:
Can’t. Stop. Smiling.https://t.co/jFC75imfHv
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 24, 2016
Here’s hoping the Penguins repeat as Stanley Cup champs next year!MORE NEWS: Lighting Of Garden Theater On North Side Marks Groundbreaking Of Decades-Long Project