When the Penguins take the ice to begin the opening round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs Wednesday night at Mellon Arena they will find a familiar foe standing in their way – the Ottawa Senators.
These two teams will be meeting in the postseason for the third time in the past four seasons. Pittsburgh swept the Senators in the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, avenging a five-game opening-round victory for Ottawa the previous season.
When two teams share a sheet of ice together as many times as these two have the past four seasons, you are bound to have some memorable moments.
Here are my Top 5 Moments between the Penguins and Senators since the 2006-07 season:#5 – Penguins’ First Home Playoff Game in Six Years
Mellon Arena went nearly six full years between postseason games, so it was no surprise the building was rocking with towel-waving fanatics when the Penguins returned home for Game 3 on April 15, 2007.
Penguins fans no sooner completed their raucous “Let’s Go Pens” chant, which had started as soon as the Igloo gates were opened that night, when Gary Roberts sent the crowd into a frenzy when he banged home a rebound just 52 seconds into the contest.
Ottawa might have responded by scoring four of the next five goals to skate away with a 4-2 victory, but that was secondary to the No. 1 fans in the NHL establishing that from that day forward, Mellon Arena was going to be the most-difficult venue in the league for opposing teams during the postseason.
#4 – Sidney Crosby’s First Playoff Victory
Pittsburgh was staring at a potential 2-0 series deficit when the third period of Game 2 rolled around during the 2007 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Ottawa had a 2-1 lead in the game and was coming off a dominating 6-3 victory in the series opener.
But the resilient Penguins, many of whom were participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time, showed a strong resolve in the third period. They quickly evened the score, 2-2, on a Roberts’ goal 2:04 into the final period.
Ottawa responded to re-take a 3-2 lead four minutes later on a Chris Kelly goal, but the Penguins blitzed the Senators with two goals in 2:10 by Jordan Staal
and Sidney Crosby
to produce a 4-3 victory at Scotiabank Place to draw even in the series. #3 – Thanksgiving Comeback
|Jarkko Ruutu's game-deciding goal in the shootout gave the Penguins a 6-5 come-from-behind victory on Nov. 22, 2007. Credit - Getty Images |
Twenty-two games into the 2007-08 season the Penguins hardly resembled the team which had a 47-point improvement in the standings the previous season. Pittsburgh entered their contest on Nov. 22, 2007 with a disappointing 8-11-2 overall record.
Their chances at earning victory No. 9 didn’t look good after Ottawa jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period. However, instead of folding, the Penguins responded with three consecutive goals from Evgeni Malkin
, Ryan Malone and Tyler Kennedy
to take a 3-2 lead by the eight-minute mark of the second period.
Ottawa answered with three tallies of their own – from Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Christoph Schubert – to earn their second two-goal lead of the night 1:04 into the third period.
But the comeback kids weren’t done. Malone got the Penguins back within one when he beat Martin Gerber with a snap shot on a power play 4:52 minutes later. Just 1:11 minutes after Malone’s goal Sergei Gonchar tied the score, 5-5.
Neither team scored during the overtime period, so the game headed to a shootout, where the Penguins Erik Christensen and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza each tallied in round one. Both goaltenders, Dany Sabourin for Pittsburgh and Gerber for the Senators, held down the fort until an unlikely hero stepped to the plate for the Penguins.
Jarkko Ruutu was tabbed by head coach Michel Therrien as the Penguins’ fifth shooter. Ruutu slowly skated down the slot, deked Gerber and then slipped a backhander between his legs to secure a 6-5 victory.
Pittsburgh used the Thanksgiving night victory over the Senators to finish the regular season 39-16-6 and win the Atlantic Division. The Penguins then went on to sweep the Senators in the first round of the postseason on their way to a Stanley Cup Final appearance.#2 – Scary Gary Burns the Senators Again
There shouldn’t be much shock that you are reading your fourth Penguins-Senators blurb and the name Gary Roberts is showing up for a third time. The guy lived for the postseason and he enjoyed torturing the Ottawa Senators.
|Gary Roberts was a force against the Senators in Game 1 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Credit - Getty Images |
Prior to Game 1 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Roberts had dressed just once the previous three-plus months after breaking his leg on Dec. 29, but that hardly mattered on this night.
Much like he had in the first playoff game against the Senators in Game 1 the year before, Roberts opened the scoring 1:08 into the first period when his blind backhander from just outside the crease drifted under the legs of Gerber.
I think the echoes from the crowd following that goal can still be heard inside the 48-year-old arena.
“Gary! Gary! Gary!”
Oh, but Roberts was far from finished tormenting the Senators.
He added fuel to an already-burning fire when a Malkin pass deflected off his skate and skirted across the goal line during a third-period power play to round out the scoring in a 4-0 Pittsburgh victory.
However Roberts’ lasting image from that series-opening victory occurred with 12 seconds remaining following a monster hit he laid on the Senators Cody Bass near the entrance door to the Penguins locker room.
Roberts was quickly jumped by all four of the Senators on the ice, but that matter little. The cagey veteran came out on top in that battle, insinuating another round of “Gary! Gary! Gary!” chants as Roberts walked off to the dressing room.
Penguins play-by-play man Paul Steigerwald perfectly described the scene:
“There goes the tiger back in his cage.”
The Ottawa Senators still see Gary Roberts in their sleep.#1 – 2008 Handshake Line
Maybe the Senators should have consulted the Philadelphia Flyers before they made the colossal mistake of provoking Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sure, Ottawa had plenty to be proud of entering the 2008 postseason – they were the defending Eastern Conference Champions after all – but I’m almost positive they could have chosen a different picture to put outside the visitors locker room than the one they chose: The handshake line following the Senators’ five-game series victory over the Penguins the previous postseason with the words “Sens Win” on the screen in the background.
By the time the Penguins arrived at Scotiabank Place for Game 3 on April 14 they already held a 2-0 series lead and had outscored the Senators, 9-3. Clearly they didn’t need any added motivation.
But they sure received some when they saw that mural. They made sure to minimize how many times they had to walk past the painting, sweeping the series from the Senators with a 4-1 victory in Game 3 and a 3-1 win in the clinching contest two days later.
It was sweet revenge for the Penguins to skate through the handshake line at Scotiabank Place on the winning end as the team began a journey to a 2008 Stanley Cup Final appearance.