One of the best things about playoff hockey is the continuous overtime until a winner is determined. Sure, 3-on-3 hockey is fast and exciting and the shootout can be as well, but there is nothing quite like the edge of your seat thrill of watching playoff overtime hockey.
Of course, many fans will argue playoff overtime hockey is considerably less fun if your team is taking part but the thrill of victory when your side prevails is second to none in terms of sheer excitement and relief.
As Pittsburgh Penguins fans we have been truly blessed with an unbelievably array of Hall of Fame talent over the past 30 years. That talent has given us five Stanley Cup championships, too many Art Ross trophies to count, a few MVPs, and countless memories that will last a lifetime.
One other thing that talent has given us is 23 playoff appearances since 1991. When you play that much playoff hockey you are bound to have a few dramatic overtime moments to look back on.
Let’s hop in a time machine and remember some of the great playoff overtime goals in Penguins’ history.
Jaromir Jagr, 1991, New Jersey Devils Game 2
Jagr is the name appearing the most times on this list. He was an ace for the Penguins in playoff overtimes and he opened his account as a teenager during the 1991 Stanley Cup playoffs against the New Jersey Devils in the first round.
Kevin Stevens, 1991, Washington Capitals Game 2
Second round of the 1991 playoffs and the Pens were facing a 2-0 series hole against the Washington Capitals but Kevin Stevens buries a feed from Ron Francis to win the game. The Penguins will go on to win the next three to claim the series in five games. This is the first playoff meeting between the Penguins and Capitals. Surely things will go better for Washington in the future.
Ron Francis, 1992, New York Rangers Game 4
After setting up Stevens the year prior, this time is was Francis closing the door in overtime for the Pens. Facing a 3-1 series hole with a loss, Francis redirects a shot from Murphy to knot the series at two games a piece. The Pens win games 5 & 6 to eliminate the New York Rangers.
Jaromir Jagr, 1992, Boston Bruins Game 1
The Penguins completed their 1992 Stanley Cup run with an incredible 11 game winning streak that included a sweep of the Boston Bruins in the conference championship series. Game 1 was the only competitive game of the series and Jagr returns to the list with his winner in Game 1.
Luc Robitaille, 1995, Washington Capitals Game 5
It would be another three years until the Penguins had an overtime winner and it was a crucial one. Facing elimination against the Washington Capitals (lol) Luc Robitaille scored less than five minutes into the extra frame to keep the season alive. The Pens outscored the Caps 10-1 over games 6 & 7 to advance. Better luck next year Caps.
Petr Nedved, 1996, Washington Capitals Game 4
Well it’s the next year and another showdown between the Penguins and Capitals in the playoffs. Penguins are on the brink of a 3-1 series deficit until Petr Nedved scores in the fourth overtime (seconds away from a fifth overtime) to send the series back to Pittsburgh tied 2-2. Ken Wregget stops 53 shots including a penalty shot in overtime. The Pens win the next two and eliminate the Capitals. I’m beginning to sense a theme.
Jaromir Jagr, 1999, New Jersey Devils Game 6
Another Jagr overtime winner and maybe the most famous of the all from Double J. Essentially playing on one leg because of a groin injury, Jagr takes the ice and wills the Penguins to a victory over the top seeded Devils. First he ties the game in the final minutes then delivers in the winner in overtime. The Pens win Game 7 in New Jersey and the extra revenue helps keep the franchise afloat.
Jaromir Jagr, 2000, Washington Capitals Game 2
More magic from Jagr the next season and more misery for the Capitals at the hands of the Penguins. The Caps entered the playoffs as the number two seed in the East but the Pens took a 3-0 lead in the series in part thanks to this overtime goal by Jagr in the Game 2. In the end the Penguins win the series 4-1 and the Capitals exit early again. This will be Jagr’s last playoff overtime goal as a Penguin. He remains the franchise leader in playoff overtime goals with four.
Martin Straka, 2001, Washington Capitals Game 6
Pens are back in the playoffs after Mario Lemieux comes out of retirement and wouldn’t you know it the Capitals are waiting in the first round. It’s a back and forth series and the Pens steal Game 5 in Washington. The Civic Arena is the site for Game 6 and for the first time since 1979 the Penguins clinch a series on an overtime goal. Martin Straka plays hero and future Penguins’ legend Sergei Gonchar plays goat.
Seriously, how to Capitals’ fans keep doing this?
Martin Straka, 2001, Buffalo Sabres Game 6
The very next round, Martin Straka comes up huge in overtime once again to extend the Penguins season and force a Game 7 against the Buffalo Sabres. Mario Lemieux ties the game in the waning moments off a scramble in front then Straka buries one from in close in overtime to win the game. Bedlam ensues inside Civic Arena.
Darius Kasparaitis, 2001, Buffalo Sabres Game 7
It’s not often you clinch consecutive series with overtime goals but the Penguins did just that in 2001. One of the most famous overtime goals in franchise history came off the stick of maybe the unlikeliest hero in franchise history. Taking a feed from Robert Lang, defenseman Darius Kasparaitis beats Dominik Hasek clean to send the Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Little did we know at the time, but this was the last moment of joy for Penguins fans for quite a long time.
Marian Hossa, 2008, New York Rangers Game 5
After a long time playing bottom feeder in the NHL, the Penguins returned to the playoffs in 2007. It was a short stay but the future was bright. The next year the Penguins were back and management went all in, bringing Marian Hossa into the fold. Hossa eventually became a franchise villain but the Pens don’t reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 without him. He made his presence felt with an overtime winner to eliminate the Rangers in Game 5.
Petr Sykora, 2008, Detroit Red Wings Game 5
Eventually the Pens made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 but were playing way over the heads against a formidable Detroit Red Wings side. Facing elimination in Game 5, the Pens let a 2-0 lead slip away but fought back and tied the game with seconds left thanks to Max Talbot. The teams continued to do battle into the night until the Penguins were given a power play in the third overtime. Petr Sykora famously called his shot and beat Chris Osgood to force a Game 6.
Bill Guerin, 2009, Philadelphia Flyers Game 2
Coming within two victories of the Cup the year prior had the Penguins hungry for more the next season. Opening the playoffs against the cross-state rival Philadelphia Flyers the Penguins raced out a 2-0 series lead off an overtime goal from Bill Guerin.
The Pens eventually won the series in six games after a dramatic Game 6 in Philadelphia, setting up a date with the **squints** Washington Capitals.
Kris Letang, 2009, Washington Capitals Game 3
Same year, next round and it’s the Penguins and Capitals for the first time since 2001 and the first time during the Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin era. Washington held serve at home and were an overtime goal away from taking a commanding 3-0 series lead. Kris Letang stepped up and wrote his name in franchise lore with a point shot that found its way past Semyon Varlamov.
Two nights later the Penguins tied the series with a Game 4 victory which leads us to...
Evgeni Malkin, 2009, Washington Capitals Game 5
Just 24 hours after Game 4, the teams were back on the ice due to a scheduling conflict (Yanni concert) at Mellon Arena. The Penguins were trailing 3-1 after two period of play but tied the game with two goals in the third. The game went to overtime where Evgeni Malkin scored his only career playoff overtime goal with the help of sliding Capitals’ defenseman.
You will recall the Caps fought back and won Game 6 (in overtime) before the Penguins boat raced the Caps in Game 7 to advance.
Pascal Dupuis, 2010, Ottawa Senators Game 6
Pens enter the 2010 playoffs looking to defend their Stanley Cup title. They go up 3-1 on the Ottawa Senators but a pesky Sens team fights back to force a Game 6. The Sens go up 3-0 in Game 6 but the Pens battle all the way back to force overtime. Pascal Dupuis steps up and finishes the Sens in overtime.
Brooks Orpik, 2013, New York Islanders Game 6
Another series clinching goal from a very unlikely source. Facing the New York Islanders in the playoffs for the first time since that one thing happened, the teams go to overtime in Game 6. Brooks Orpik gets a pass from Tyler Kennedy and hammers a shot past Evgeni Nabokov to send the Penguins to the second round.
Patric Hornqvist, 2016, Washington Capitals Game 4
Following the Orpik goal in 2013, the Penguins have to wait three years for another overtime winner. In the meantime, they drop a remarkable eight straight overtime decisions in the playoffs. Enter Patric Hornqvist who finally breaks the drought in Game 4 against who else, the Washington Capitals. Please note: This is a 5-on-5 goal for Hornqvist.
Nick Bonino, 2016, Washington Capitals Game 6
Hornqvist’s goal in Game 4 put the Penguins on the brink of advancing but the Capitals fought back in Game 5 to stay alive. In Game 6 back home, the Penguins took a 3-0 before letting the Capitals tie it in the third period. Mike Sullivan deploys the HBK line in overtime and Nick Bonino puts the Capitals in a body bag.
Maybe next year, Caps.
Sidney Crosby, 2016, Tampa Bay Lightning Game 2
Malkin’s only career overtime winner is on here so we have to include Crosby’s as well. Facing a 2-0 deficit on home ice to a very talented Tampa Bay Lightning team the Pens called on their captain and he answered less than a minute into the extra frame off a pass from Bryan Rust.
Conor Sheary, 2016, San Jose Sharks Game 2
Moments prior to Conor Sheary giving the Pens a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, Sidney Crosby pulled Sheary and Letang aside and drew up a special face-off play. Crosby won the draw clean back to Letang who faked a shot and passed to Sheary. Through a screen, Sheary’s hot eluded Martin Jones and found the back of the net for a 2-1 Penguins’ victory.
Chris Kunitz, 2017, Ottawa Senators Game 7
The final goal on our trip back in time is the one that is probably freshest in everyone’s mind. An incredibly tight Eastern Conference Finals against the Senators went the full seven games and still had to be decided in double overtime. For the most part, the Penguins controlled the play in the overtime periods but it was only going to take one goal to decide a winner. In steps Chris Kunitz and the rest is history.
Two weeks later the Penguins were celebrating a second straight Stanley Cup championship in Nashville.
Playoff overtime in hockey is one the best parts of the playoff experience unless your team is taking part. It’s non-stop drama where every shot could turn into the game winner.
On one side there will be jubilation and on the other side despair. It’s the nature of playoff hockey and everything can come crashing down in a flash.
You just have to pray you’re on the side celebrating.