To all those people who said the Penguins were stupid to trade away Armstrong, Christensen, Esposito and a first round pick for Hossa/Dupuis, this is the moment all Pens fans were waiting for:
It's funny how the Rangers had to wait until the third period to play. It's also kind of funny how the Rangers waited till Game 4 to show they could win.
But nothing's funnier than silencing the New York hockey media for another season. Tah tah ladies. It was fun.
Fleury looked like a wall at the beginning of the game. Nothing was getting past him mostly because nothing was getting to him. The Pens' D has really stepped it up a notch since the playoffs. This was unfortunately an area that Pittsburgh lacked in for a majority of the season, but really started to turn things around with the acquisition of Hal Gill at the trade deadline.
After Malkin and Hossa each picked up a goal, it almost looked as if you could pick up your phone and text a Rangers fan "Happy offseason." Yet for some reason in the back of your minds, perhaps it was because of Pittsburgh's return in Game 1 or New York's challenge in Game 2; something told you this was far from over.
That was an unfortunate fact.
New York came out in the third playing for their playoff lives. Some guy no one has ever heard of, including half the bench and 90% of Rangers fans, score the first Rangers goal of the game. The crowd goes silent, eying up the clock to see over 18 minutes still remaining. The clock would not be on Pittsburgh's side, as less than 3 more ticked down before New York tied it on a love-tap goal from Nygiel Dawes.
This is where it all came down to the D. Fleury and Lundqvist were challenged on both ends of the rink and each answered the call. At one point it looked as if Henrik would cave. Minutes later Fleury found himself in a similar nail-biting scenario and saved the day.
Before you knew it, overtime was on it's way and you didn't have a single finger nail left to bite.
In OT the Penguins started off with a power-play thanks in part to Chris Drury and his flailing stick. The Pens were unable to convert with the man advantage and the PP dissipates. Even still, Pittsburgh was controlling the puck and it looked like the first period all over again.
Fleury was hardly challenge in OT but when he was stepping up was not a problem. In fact, MAF made a save in OT that can hopefully be used as a reference point for the extra shine on the cup.
Right around this time in a playoff game, the players are still wired and ready to go. One more OT, and it comes down to either a fluke shot, roughed up ice or sheer exhaustion willing the puck in. That was not the case for Pitt tonight, and Crosby and Hossa connected for the game winner. Pittsburgh won the series 4-1, moving on to Philly for the Conference title.
This is where it gets ugly.
Don't expect a happy go lucky series for the Conference. These guys are out for blood. Anyone who suspected Pitt dodged the Flyers in the first round is now realizing that Pitt wanted this more than ever. Let Philly get as far as they can and take it from them.
So far this year Pittsburgh has destroyed any statistic surrounding the playoffs. They came back from being down 3-0 in Game 1, kept the Senators and Rangers from coming back and winning four straight and have led the NHL postseason in a number of team categories. Yet the one thing that Penguins fans and players alike have trouble shaking is this: Pittsburgh has never won a playoff series against Philly.
A disgusting 0-2 record stands between these teams heading into the next round.
Between now and the start of this series, we'll take a look at the history of these two teams and talk about the current obstacles standing between both.
Until then Pittsburgh will rest up for a series that runs the chance of being bigger than the Cup.
I always worry we'll lose a guy on the IR because of this...