Page Pietrangelo is a scholarship hockey player at Robert Morris University. When people notice the name on the back of her jersey, they remark to the freshman defenseman, “Hey, your dad is the save guy.”
The save guy would be Frank Pietrangelo, who will be remembered forever in Penguins lore for “The Save” against the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Patrick Division Semifinals. Page was a baby when here father etched his name in Penguins history but it’s something he’ll never forget…maybe.
“I don’t remember the save at all; I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Pietrangelo joked at Penguins practice on Saturday. “Obviously it’s great to be a part of some Penguins history and part of the Penguins culture, part of the Stanley Cup run. Whenever I come back to Pittsburgh people always remind me of it. It’s always nice to hear, believe me.”
Pittsburgh trailed New Jersey in the series, 3-2, and was facing elimination. To make matters worse, top defenseman Paul Coffey and starting goaltender Tom Barrasso missed the game due to injuries.
Pietrangelo, a backup that season, was forced into action. The Devils were generating a lot of scoring chances and the Penguins were on their heels. Pittsburgh was desperately hanging on to a lead when Pietrangelo made the greatest stop in Penguins' history.
Pietrangelo was at the top of his crease to challenge a shot. The rebound caromed right to the stick of the Devils' Petr Stastny, who had a wide-open net to shoot into. However, Pietrangelo instinctively threw his glove toward the net and snagged the shot.
“It was kind of an innocent play,” he said. “The puck was shot towards the net and the rebound came right out front and (Petr) Stastny was there. It was kind of a desperation play where I reached my glove out and made the save.”
Pittsburgh held on to win the game. Pietrangelo then posted a shutout in the seventh game and Pittsburgh would go on to win its first Stanley Cup Championship.
“It was a big lift for the team at that time because we were down," Pietrangelo recalled. "Coffey was hurt. Barrasso was hurt. Jersey was on a rampage, winning in our own barn to force Game 6. Our backs were to the wall. It gave us a thought that maybe we could win this, maybe it was part of our reality to win.”
“Frankie saved the day for them, there’s no question about it,” said Mike Lange, the Penguins' radio network play-by-play announcer. “He gave them a chance to win that series against the New Jersey Devils. So the Penguins survived that, got the great save from Frankie, won that game, then Frankie went on in the next game, the seventh game of that series, and shut out the Devils. He became a folklore hero in a hurry and still will be to Pittsburghers throughout his entire life because they remember the save that Frankie Pietrangelo made.”
Penguins' radio color analyst Phil Bourque had the best view of “The Save.” He was behind Stastny, skating desperately to reach him.
“Stastny was my guy,” said Bourque, who admitted he blew his coverage on the play. “I had a great angle of that save. It was a ridiculous reflex save by him but it really turned that series around. If you watch the video tape and go back you’ll see that I gave (Pietrangelo) a little hug and I kind of whispered in his ear, ‘Thanks for saving my butt Frankie.’"
Pietrangelo currently coaches the Mississauga Rep Bantam Triple-A team. The team is in town to play the Amateur Penguins, and attended the Penguins practice on Saturday. Pietrangelo’s son, Dillon, is a goalie for the team.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Pietrangelo said. “This is something special for the guys to come down here and see the NHL players up close like this. It’s a once in a lifetime type of thing for them. I’m glad the Penguins allowed me to come do this.”
Only time will tell if Dillon, 14, lives up to “The Save” legend of his father.
“He’s got to make his own history,” his father said. “Sometimes the problem with all of our kids, the name is attached to the past. I try to put no pressure on my kids whatsoever. Just come, have fun, enjoy the game.
"Hockey’s been great to me. I’m still involved in hockey every day of my life. I owe a lot to the Penguins organization. I try to give back to them anyway I can.”