Ten years ago, the Penguins and Capitals were facing off in their first Stanley Cup playoff meeting of the Sidney Crosby/Alex Ovechkin era. Before the series even started, the hype machine was in full force. It was a meeting between the game’s two biggest stars on the sport’s biggest stage. Good news for fans, Crosby and Ovechkin smashed even our wildest expectations with two of the best individual performances you may ever see in a single playoff series.
Crosby and Ovechkin both scored goals in the first period of a tight Game 1 that swung in favor of the host Capitals thanks to an early third period goal by Tomas Fleischmann to give Washington a 1-0 series lead. The Penguins were determined to take Game 2 and even the series going back to Pittsburgh, but things didn't go as planned in Game 2 and the Capitals held serve on home ice with a 4-3 victory, giving them a 2-0 lead in the series.
While Game 2 didn’t turn out the way the Penguins of their fans hoped going in, it still gave us one of the signature moments of the Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry: the dueling hat tricks.
For the second straight game, Crosby opened the scoring early in the first period, but Ovechkin answered his opening tally with one of his own early in the second. A second goal from Crosby midway through the second put the Penguins back in front for a short time before David Steckel (of course) evened the score at 2-2 heading into the second intermission.
In the third period, both stars completed their hat tricks in dramatic fashion. Ovechkin broke the deadlock with his second of the game on his patented power play slapper then sniped Marc-Andre Fleury less than three minutes later to complete his hat trick. In the dying moments of the contest, Crosby capped off his hat trick to pull the Penguins within a goal but the magic ran out and the Capitals prevailed 4-3.
You can see how it all played out between the two superstars in the highlights below:
You never want to waste a hat trick but sometimes things just don’t break your way. That was the case on this day 10 years ago when the two greatest players of their generation went blow-for-blow and created one of the greatest moments of their rivalry.
For all the pre-series hype, Crosby vs. Ovechkin exceeded even our wildest expectations. The two generational superstars combined for 27 points (Ovechkin 14, Crosby 13) across seven games and reignited one of the fiercest rivalries in the sport.
We didn’t know it at the time, but everything turned out alright for the Penguins in the end, winning this series in seven games and eventually going on to win the franchise’s third Stanley Cup. It would be another seven years before the two teams met again in the playoffs, but the foundation of their career long rivalry was built in this series.