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2009: Penguins-Capitals Revisited

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Hockey world waited for four years for that postseason matchup in 2009. Two generational talents in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin – the faces of the NHL – would square off in a playoff series. Two heated rivals – Pittsburgh and Washington – would reignite the old flames of hatred.

Both superstars rose to the occasion. Crosby and Ovechkin each scored eight goals over the course of the seven-game series and finished with 13 and 14 points respectively.

After a seven-game series that lived up to all of the drama and hype, it was the Pens that would win the series, 4-3, en route to their third Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

The two franchises will faceoff once again in a Second Round playoff series. Which means the series will likely be dubbed Crosby-Ovechkin II.

“I think it brings out the best in both of us,” Crosby said. “In the past that’s been the case. There is a lot made of (the matchup). At the same time we want to be at our best for our respective teams.”

Before the rematch, here is a game-by-game look back at that dramatic 2009 showdown.

GAME 1: WASHINGTON 3, PITTSBURGH 2 (Verizon Center)

Crosby and Ovechkin gave the people what they wanted as each recorded a goal in the opening matchup of the series, but it was Washington that would prevail in the contest.

The most anticipated playoff series in years began in fitting fashion: a Crosby goal. The Pens captain carried the puck into the offensive zone, drifted into the high slot and ripped a shot past the glove of rookie goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

The Caps scored two goals before the end of the first period to take a 2-1 lead into intermission. The tying goal came off of the stick of David Steckel.

Then it was Ovechkin’s time to shine. He was standing in the bottom circle during a 5-on-3 power play when Nicklas Backstrom fed him a pass. In his signature fashion, Ovechkin one-timed a shot into the goal.

The Caps took the lead for good in the opening minute of the third period. Off of a 2-on-1 rush, Backstrom setup Tomas Fleischmann for a quick snap shot. Although goalie Marc-Andre Fleury got a piece of the shot, the puck still sputtered across the goal line.

GAME 2: WASHINGTON 4, PITTSBURGH 3 (Verizon Center)

In probably the most memorable game of the series Crosby and Ovechkin each recorded hat tricks for their teams. But it was Steckel’s goal that proved to be the difference for the Caps in their 4-3 win for a 2-0 lead in the series.

The game was tied at 2-2 entering the third period when Ovechkin took over. Ovechkin had already scored one goal in the second period. He added goal Nos. 2 and 3 late in the third period to give the Caps a 4-2 advantage. Ovechkin scored both tallies in a 2:29-minute span, the second a bullet from the blue line.

Crosby notched his hat trick tally with just 30 seconds left in the game to give the Pens a last gasp of hope, but Washington held on for the victory.

“For two guys to get hat tricks in the same game of the playoffs, that doesn’t happen too often, so it was unique,” Crosby said.

GAME 3: PITTSBURGH 3, WASHINGTON 2 OT (Mellon Arena)

The series’ turning point took place in Game 3 at Mellon Arena with the Pens’ fans providing the whiteout. After 60 minutes of play the game entered overtime. The Caps had a chance to take a 3-0 series lead and put a stranglehold on Pittsburgh.

But it was a young defenseman that would turn the tide of the series.

Kris Letang, 22, couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first career NHL playoff goal. Crosby won a key faceoff in the offensive zone and worked to the puck to Letang at the far point. His shot was deflected in front and smashed the back of the net, and brought the Pens back into the series.

The Pens had a 2-1 lead late in the third period. Backstrom scored his first goal of the playoffs with just 1:50 left in regulation that sucked the life from the crowd. It was a crushing moment from the Pens. But it set the table for Letang’s dramatic season-changing tally and a rebirth of the Pens’ fate.

GAME 4: PITTSBURGH 5, WASHINGTON 3 (Mellon Arena)

The Pens evened the series at 2-2 after an offensive explosion. Pittsburgh finally solved rookie goaltender Semyon Varlamov, lighting him up for five goals.

Five different Pens chipped in goals and nine different players recorded points. On a negative note, the Pens were forced to play with five defensemen for the final two periods as All-Star blueliner Sergei Gonchar left the game following a knee-on-knee collision with Ovechkin.

It was the Caps that struck first as Backstrom gave Washington a 1-0 lead jus 36 seconds after the puck dropped. But goals from Gonchar, Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko, Crosby and Max Talbot catapulted the Pens to victory.

GAME 5: PITTSBURGH 4, WASHINGTON 3 OT (Verizon Center)

When the Pens last left the Verizon Center, they returned to Pittsburgh trailing 2-0 to the Caps in the series. But thanks to Evgeni Malkin’s overtime winning tally, this time the Pens would return to Pittsburgh with three-straight wins and a 3-2 series lead.

The Caps had a 2-1 lead entering the third period. But a pair of Pens’ goals from Fedotenko (51 seconds into the third) and Matt Cooke gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead. The Caps tied the game with just 4:08 remaining in regulation, off of the stick of Ovechkin.

In the extra frame, Malkin and Crosby had a 2-on-1 rush. Makin’s attempted cross-ice pass went off of the stick of diving Caps defenseman Tom Poti and through his goaltender to give Pittsburgh a series lead.

GAME 6: WASHINGTON 5, PITTSBURGH 4 OT (Mellon Arena)

For the third time in the past four contests, additional time was required. The Pens had a chance to eliminate the Caps and advance to the Eastern Conference final for the second consecutive year, but it was Washington that would strike and force a do-or-die seventh game back in Washington.

Both teams traded goals and leads throughout the contest. Crosby scored with just 4:18 remaining in the third period to force overtime.

It was an unlikely hero, David Steckel, that would score to push the series to Game 7. Steckel re-directed a shot from Brooks Laich in overtime to send this series to the distance.

GAME 7: PITTSBURGH 6, WASHINGTON 2 (Verizon Center)

The most hyped and highly anticipated series in recent history came to a decisive end as the Pens landed a heavyweight knockout punch in Game 7. Pittsburgh ran out to a 5-0 lead halfway through the game and cruised into the Eastern Conference final.

Crosby saved his best performance for when his team needed it most. He scored two power-play goals and added an assist for a three-point night.

“That’s one that was a big one in that (title) run,” Crosby said. “You go in hoping for the best, but never know what’s going to happen. We were able to pull it out on the road.

“Definitely a great memory.”

Crosby opened the scoring at 12:36 of the first period to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead. Just eight seconds later Craig Adams posted his first career postseason goal to give the Pens a 2-0 lead.

The Pens opened the second period with two goals in the opening 2:12 from Guerin and Letang. By the time Jordan Staal tacked on a fifth score at 11:37 of the second period, tickets were already being printed for the conference final in Pittsburgh.

But Game 7 could have turned out dramatically different.

With the game scoreless, Ovechkin darted around defenseman Rob Scuderi for a breakaway in the opening minutes of the contest. In what has become maybe his biggest career save, Fleury stonewalled the Russian star to keep the game scoreless. Instead a 1-0 lead for Washington, the Pens responded with five straight goals.

“I’ve seen him make that move before. He comes down with speed and moves across from his backhand. I was waiting for it, and he did.

“That’s one I’ll cherish for a while.”

Lost in the hoopla was a gutsy effort from Gonchar. He returned to the lineup just five days after suffering a painful, and some thought season-ending, knee-on-knee injury.

“I’ve never been around a series with the drama and the hype and the skill,” Guerin said. “It was a great series. I’m sure the people at the league are happy. It couldn’t have gone any better for the fans.”

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