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Decade Review: Goodbye Old Friend

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Hope.

That's what Penguins fans clung to with 3:30 remaining in the second period of Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals against Montreal.

Center Jordan Staal re-directed a shot from the point into the net to pull the Penguins within two goals of the Canadiens, cutting their lead to 4-2. Pittsburgh had trailed 4-0 in the game, but with a pair of goals from Chris Kunitz and Staal, suddenly the Penguins seemed on the march.

Mellon Arena, engulfed in a blanket of white, roared at the developments. The game seemed dire at 4-0. But at 4-2 - and with Pittsburgh's offensive firepower - anything was possible. And that anything inspired hope.

The Penguins kept the pressure on in the third period. Anxiety filled the arena.

Tweet from @penguins: #Pens fans were absolutely rocking the Igloo last period, need to keep up the intensity for the 3rd! #LetsGoPens!

But at the halfway point of the third period everything changed. Brian Gionta scored to give Montreal a 5-2 lead. And with exactly 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Penguins' fate was sealed.

And then the reality set in.

Not the reality that the Penguins' aspirations of repeating as Stanley Cup champions was about the end in 10 minutes. But the reality that the next 10 minutes would be the final 10 minutes ever to be played at Civic/Mellon Arena.

The Civic Arena was the only home the Penguins ever knew, beginning with a game against, fittingly, the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 11, 1967. The arena, which opened its doors in 1961, housed the Penguins for 43 years. The dome-shaped structure, which was renamed Mellon Arena in 1999, was the oldest facility in the National Hockey League.

Certainly, it had its issues. It was old, outdated, small and dilapidated. But man, it had character. And history.

Every Penguins fan can still tell you about their first game in the building (May 4, 1993, Game 2 vs. NY Islanders, 3-0 win). I still remember goaltender Tom Barrasso pulling a diving double-pad stack as the highlight of his 26-save shutout.

Every Penguins fan can also rattle off their favorite moments in the old barn: Martin Straka's overtime goal to defeat the Capitals in the 2001 playoffs, a rookie Sidney Crosby with a leg-fake to roof a shootout goal against Montreal, Evgeni Malkin scoring on the "Geno" spinning-backhand hat trick tally against Carolina in the Eastern Conference Final.

Tweet from @penguins: Players prepare to say goodbye to Mellon Arena. Read some of their favorite memories here: http://bit.ly/9IWyZp

All of those memories flashed in my mind in those final 10 minutes. And the 17,132 on hand had their own memories playing in their own minds.

The time ticked by too quickly. We wanted that time to last forever. We weren't quite ready to say goodbye. Though, we all knew that goodbye was necessary. The franchise could not survive without a new arena.

Great things were on the horizon with the opening of PPG Paints Arena (then CONSOL Energy Center). A beautiful, state-of-the-art arena would become the new home of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the foreseeable future.

The Penguins began the decade (2010) with the ending of an era (Civic Arena) and the beginning of another (PPG Paints Arena).

The excitement of the new arena was still down the road at that time. For now, it was time to soak up the final minutes and then give Mellon Arena a proper send off.

"One minute remaining in the period, one minute."

The sold-out crowd stood and cheered. They waved their white towels and chanted "Let's go Pens!" as the clock wound down to zero. And then they cheered some more. The volume remained through the ceremonial handshake and only increased as Crosby, followed by the rest of his teammates, raised their sticks in a final farewell and salute the fans.

Crosby would be the last player to step off the ice.

Tweet from @penguins: As the #Pens make their way off the ice, just want to say Thanks to the Greatest Fans in Hockey for a memorable season!

The crowed filtered out of the arena for the final time, taking a little extra time on the way out. The doors were locked and the lights shut off, forever.

Civic Arena was now a relic of history. The future was to come, and with it a decade's worth of unforgettable memories.

The Penguins were arguably the most successful NHL franchise over the last decade (2010-19). They made the playoffs every season while becoming the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups in nearly 20 years. The team provided many memorable moments over that 10-year span. In this Decade Review series website writers Sam Kasan and Michelle Crechiolo, who have been with the team the entire time, highlight the 10 storylines and moments that stand out to them from the past 10 years.

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