The Penguins were Champions. They did it. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, & Co. brought a title home.
When you win the Stanley Cup, or even just make the Final, you have a short summer — shorter than every other team trying to knock you off your pedestal. The Penguins found that out the hard way in the spring of 2010.
The Ottawa Senators again
For some reason, the Penguins and the Senators became common opponents in the playoffs for a several year stretch, and this year was no different.
The Pens opened their final postseason at the Igloo against the Sens, and it didn’t start well! A 5-4 loss in Game 1 had us tugging on our collars a bit. Fun fact though: Craig Adams went 82 games in 2009-10 without scoring a goal, and then scored one in Game 1 of the playoffs. Don’t ask me why I remember this.
When Game 2 started with a Peter friggin Regin goal just 18 seconds in off of a bounce from the stanchion, it was like, “WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?”
I was at that game, and when Andy Sutton rolled into him, I thought Jordan Leopold was dead. Not even being dramatic. When Andy Sutton hit him, I thought he was dead.
And no, I am not an expert.
Thankfully, Sidney Crosby had a signature moment, when he wore Jason Spezza out behind the Sens net to set up the game-winner.
The Pens would go on and win Game 3 and 4 as well, coming back home for Game 5, looking to close out the series and move on. Three periods of regulation, and into the third overtime and Matt Carkner of all people score a goal to keep the Senators hopes alive. Matt Carkner. Yes.
Heading into Game 6, it felt like all the momentum was on the side of the Senators. I think that can be a natural reaction to a multiple-OT loss. Those are just deflating for one side, and fantastic for the other.
It was looking like a Game 7 was on the horizon when the Pens were going into the 3rd period down 3-1.
Bill Guerin had other ideas. Matt Cooke had other ideas. But most of all, Pascal Dupuis DID NOT HAVE TIME FOR YOUR BULLSHIT AND WILL TURN THIS CAR AROUND.
(Matt Cullen sighting.)
And that was all she wrote. The Senators were a much more formidable opponent than they had been a year prior, but the Pens dug deep and came out on top.
The Montreal Canadiens Await
As the Penguins eliminated the Senators, we looked forward to seeing the Washington Capitals again. Oh wait lol, they lost in the first round to the Montreal Canadiens in 7 games, despite winning the Presidents Trophy by 8 points, in the former trash Southeast Division.
Ok, back to the teams who did advance. So it’s the Penguins and the Canadiens, backed by a young and charismatic PK Subban, Mike Cammalleri, and some goaltender named Jaroslav Halak, who pretty much singlehandedly knocked off the Caps. This should be a breeze, right? WELP.
The Penguins would jump out to an early 1-0 lead with a 6-3 win in Game 1, but not without injury, as they would lose Jordan Staal for several games after a freak injury where his foot was cut by Subban’s skate blade.
Maxim Lapierre and Mike Cammalleri would become the ultimate Canadiens villains. Scoring big goals.
Smiling and laughing in the Penguins faces. My god.
The series would be tied 2-2 after four games, and the Penguins were able to pull out a win in Game 5 at home, taking a hold on the series. That’s right about where the fun stopped.
Mike Cammalleri would score twice in Game 6 en route to a 4-3 win at the Bell Centre, sending it back to Pittsburgh for a Game 7.
At the time, 25-year old me thinks “Man, I have to go to this Game 7. It’s gonna be amazing.” Well let me tell you. IT WASN’T AMAZING.
By far the worst sporting event I’ve ever been to. An early penalty from Sidney Crosby, and just like that, it’s 1-0. It was 4-0 before we knew it and the arena was legitimately stunned. I don’t recall such a quiet end to a game before.
What a way for Sergei Gonchar to be remembered for his final game in Pittsburgh — getting walked past by Travis Moen shorthanded, for gods sake.
People were crying as Mike Cammalleri, Jaroslav Halak, and the Habs closed the Igloo for good. Yikes.
Just like that, within about 30 minutes, the Penguins went from having a chance to go to the Eastern Conference Final for the third year running to....well, not going anywhere.
My favorite memory from all this — watching this guy at the Igloo with a screwdriver trying to take apart his seat in the E balcony so that he could take it with him after the final game. A true yinzer.
After this letdown in 2010, surely the 2010-11 Season would have to go better, right?