In light of tonight's match-up against the Dallas Stars, I couldn't help but look back at some of the more memorable moments between these two franchises. As I sit here thinking, I am not coming across too many; not because the Stars and the Penguins never play each other, they just do not play each other regularly enough for there to be any excitement or drama about the game. Although both teams are playing well at the right time of the year; the Pens are sitting in second in the division and climbing, with a solid grip on a playoff spot, and Dallas is coming into the game hot, winning their last four games, outscoring their opponents 13-5, there does not seem to be the feel of meaningfulness behind the game. With the season coming to a close in the next couple weeks,this is a marquee inter-conference match-up late in the season with playoff implications. But I guess Dallas isn't D.C and Louis Eriksson doesn't resonate to the casual fan. The story line involving last years trade would be much better if Alex Goligoski had shown the improvement expected and James Neal wasn't being outshined by the dominance of Evgeni Malkin. Having played the Stars once already this year, Neal had already had his redemption story, scoring two goals in a game in Pittsburgh. That has all but been forgotten, just as tonight's game will be in the annals of Penguins history. Tonight is just another regular season game.
There is one moment in Penguins-Star history that will never be forgotten, at least by me. It was game two of the 1991 Stanley Cup finals, and the Penguins were playing the then Minnesota North Stars. I was four years old, having just moved to Hagerstown, MD from Beaver, PA, a small town about 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Being a part of the Pittsburgh diaspora, my family was of course watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, me staying up way past my bed time. During the second period of game two, the Pens leading the North Stars 2-1, I witnessed the single greatest individual play in a hockey game I have ever seen. The right-handed Mario Lemieux received the puck just before the neutral zone, skating hard toward the offensive zone. Approaching two North Star defenders, Lemieux pulls the puck to his left hand side, drawing the defenders to his backhand. As the defenders commit to his backhand handle, he deftly five holes the North Star defender back to his right hand side, simultaneously splitting the defense, leaving him one on one with the hapless goalie, and a defender flopping helplessly to the ice. Deking to the forehand, the North Star goalie commits, No. 66 deking him back to the backhand goal. It was beautiful, artistic, and more aw inspiring than any Mighty Ducks Movie I have ever seen. Super Mario could not be a more appropriate nickname. The goal put the Pens up 3-1 in route to a 4-1 victory and a Stanley Cup Championship in 6 games. So as you sit and watch tonight's game that will most likely be far from memorable, remember this one great moment in Penguins-Stars history.