|Sidney Crosby poses with Mario Lemieux after being selected first overall by the Penguins in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Crosby highlights|
So, with that in mind, NHL.com runs down the important dates in Penguins history that led to the evolution of this championship squad.
June 21, 2003 -- Penguins select goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft in Nashville.
April 4, 2004 -- Penguins beat Washington, 4-3, but still finish the regular season with a League-worst 58 points.
June 26, 2004 -- Penguins select Evgeni Malkin with the second overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft in Raleigh, N.C.
July 22, 2005 -- Penguins win the NHL Entry Draft lottery, receiving the right to select first in the upcoming draft.
July 30, 2005 -- Penguins take Sidney Crosby with the first overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Aug. 3, 2005 -- Penguins sign veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a five-year contract.
Oct. 5, 2005 -- Crosby makes his NHL debut.
Dec. 15, 2005 -- Michel Therrien named Penguins coach after leading the team's AHL affiliate Wilkes Barre/Scranton to a 21-1-2-1 start to the season.
Jan. 10, 2006 -- Therrien's famous tirade following a 3-1 loss to Edmonton – the third in a 10-game losing streak – when he called the team "soft" and claimed "half the team doesn't care."
April 18, 2006 -- Penguins finished the regular season with a 5-3 loss to Toronto, capping a 22-win, 58-point season despite Crosby breaking Mario Lemieux's team rookie record with 102 points.
May 25, 2006 -- Ray Shero hired as the team's general manager.
June 24, 2006 -- Shero makes Jordan Staal the second overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.
Oct. 18, 2006 -- Malkin makes his NHL debut and scores his first goal.
March 27, 2007 -- Penguins clinch first playoff berth in six years with a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals. They would finish the regular season with 47 wins and 105 points.
April 19, 2007 -- Penguins eliminated from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in five games by the Ottawa Senators.
May 31, 2007 -- Crosby named Penguins captain and the youngest captain in NHL history.
July 2, 2007 -- Shero signs unrestricted free agents Petr Sykora and Darryl Sydor each to two-year contracts.
July 10, 2007 -- Crosby and the Penguins agree to a five-year contract extension, ensuring the captain's future in Pittsburgh through at least the 2012-13 season.
Dec. 6, 2007 -- Fleury injures his ankle early in a game at Calgary. Although it at first didn't seem so severe, Fleury would wind up missing nearly three months of action.
Jan. 18, 2008 -- Crosby suffers a high ankle sprain while ramming into the boards in the first period of a 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay. The team announces soon after that he'll be out for six to eight weeks, and he winds up missing 27 of the last 30 games as a result.
Feb. 26, 2008 -- Shero reels in the big fish of the NHL trade deadline with a buzzer-beating deal for Marian Hossa. He ships Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen as well as 2007 first-round pick Angelo Esposito and the team's first-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft to Atlanta for Hossa and Pascal Dupuis. Shero also shores up the team's back end by nabbing defenseman Hal Gill from Toronto for a second-round pick in 2008 and a fifth round pick in 2009. The Penguins take Shero's shrewd moves as a message to "win now."
Feb. 28, 2008 -- In his first game as a Penguin, Hossa injures his knee in Boston and is forced out of the lineup for roughly two weeks. He winds up missing six games. The same night Fleury returns from his ankle injury to replace Ty Conklin, who gave up three goals on 13 shots to start the game.
March 3, 2008 -- Malkin is named the NHL's First Star for February thanks to his League-leading 26 points in the month on nine goals and 17 assists in 14 games. The Penguins went 8-3-3, all games played without Crosby.
March 4, 2008 -- Crosby returns after a 21-game absence and records an assist in a 2-0 win at Tampa Bay.
March 12, 2008 -- Crosby out of the lineup again due to lingering problems with his ankle. He wound up missing seven straight games before returning to the lineup for good in a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders on MARCH 27. The Penguins went 16-8-4 without him thanks in large part to Malkin.
April 2, 2008 -- Penguins clinch their first division title in 10 years with a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
April 9, 2008 -- Penguins open the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-0 win over the Ottawa Senators, the same team that wiped them out of the 2007 Playoffs in five games.
April 16, 2008 -- Penguins complete sweep of Senators with a 3-1 victory.
May 4, 2008 -- Penguins advance to Eastern Conference Final with a 3-2 overtime victory against the New York Rangers, ending the series in five games.
May 18, 2008 -- Penguins win their first Eastern Conference championship since 1992 with a 6-0 win over the Flyers, completing that series in five games, too, and running their playoff record to 12-2. Crosby finishes first three rounds with League-best 21 points and Fleury's 1.70 goals against average is second among playoff goalies.
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.