Rivalry week rolls on here at Pensburgh and today we are going to focus squarely on the Penguins rivalry with the Washington Capitals.
Unlike their rivalry with the Philadelphia Flyers, much of the hatred between the Penguins and Capitals stems from their meetings in the playoffs, hence the reason all five of these selections are from a playoff series between the two sides.
Since 1991, the Penguins and Capitals have met 11 times in the postseason, with the Penguins holding a commanding 9-2 advantage in series wins. All five of the Penguins Stanley Cup titles have featured series victories over the Capitals, while the Capitals defeated the Penguins on the road to its lone championship in 2018.
Now, let’s get to our list. The moments presented here are listed in chronological order.
Petr Nedved ends a marathon
After two games of their 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup, things did not look good for the No. 2 seeded Penguins. Washington won the opening two games at Mellon Arena and headed back to the nation’s capital firmly in control of the series.
In a must win Game 3, the Penguins did just that to pull themselves back into the series and set up an equally important Game 4. Like the series itself, the Capital took a 2-0 lead in Game 4 but the Penguins fought back and sent the game to overtime after goals by Jaromir Jagr and Petr Nedved.
After Nedved’s tying tally at the eight minute mark of the third period, the teams remained knotted 2-2 deep into the D.C. night. Ken Wregget stopped Joe Juneau on a penalty shot in the second overtime and eventually the game made it all the way to the fourth overtime where Petr Nedved put an end to the festivities.
With just 45 seconds left in the fourth overtime, Nedved’s goal ended the game and evened the series. The Penguins went on to win the following to games and eliminate the Capitals.
Martin Straka steals and scores
For the seventh time in 10 seasons, the Penguins and Capitals met in the postseason once again in 2001. This was also the sixth of those seven meetings that occurred in the first round.
To this point, the Penguins were victors in five of the previous six meetings, but were the underdogs heading into this showdown. The teams split the first four games, each side winning once at home and once on the road. It was a tight series between the rivals, with every game besides Game 3 decided by one goal.
Goals from Andrew Ference and Mario Lemieux in Game 5 were just enough to hold off the Capitals and send the series back to Pittsburgh with the Capitals on the brink. In another close affair, the Capitals kept their season alive with a late third period goal to force overtime.
It didn’t take four overtimes to decide the contest this time as Martin Straka made quick work of a Sergei Gonchar turnover to send the Capitals packing.
Crosby/Ovechkin dueling hat tricks
After seven playoff meetings between 1991-2001, the Penguins and Capitals went almost a decade before facing-off again in a playoff series. It was 2009 and both sides were entering a new era of success on the ice. This new found success led to a rebirth of the Penguins/Capital rivalry headline by superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
This series marked the first playoff meeting of the Crosby/Ovechkin era and did it ever deliver on the hype. It was an all-time classic battle that took seven games to decide, with five being decided by a single goal.
It was tempting to put the Penguins Game 7 thrashing on this list, but instead, it’s the Game 2 dueling hat tricks from Crosby and Ovechkin that make the cut. We highlighted this moment last year on its 10th anniversary, but there is never a bad time to relive the one of the defining moments of their rivalry.
Bonino, Bonino, Bonino
Even with Crosby and Ovechkin on the roster, the 2009 meeting stood out as an anomaly as both teams failed to meet expectations in the coming years. It took until 2016 for the two sides to meet again the in the playoffs and they more than made up for lost time.
A 49 save performance from Matt Murray in Game 3 combined with a Patric Hornqvist overtime winner in Game 4 pushed the Penguins out to a 3-1 series lead. In Game 5, the Capitals stayed alive with a convincing victory, sending the series back to Pittsburgh.
You probably don’t need reminding how Game 6 played out, but here is a short recap anyways. The Penguins jumped out to a 3-0 lead early, but the Capitals battled back. A string a three straight delay of game penalties allowed the Capitals to tie it and it took a late penalty kill from the Penguins to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, it was Nick Bonino writing his name into Penguins franchise lore.
Fleury’s Game 7 masterpiece
When Matt Murray tore his groin before the opening game of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Penguins hopes of repeating as champions suddenly fell on the shoulders of Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury successfully guided the Penguins to a five game victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the task was much larger in the second round with the President Trophy winning Capitals waiting on deck.
Like the year before, the Penguins jumped out to a 3-1 series lead, but this time, the Capitals came storming back and forced a Game 7 back in Washington. All logic was pointing towards to the Capitals winning that game and getting over the hump. Marc-Andre Fleury had different ideas.
In a hostile environment, Fleury stopped all 29 shots he faced and made certain goals by Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist stood up. His biggest and best save of the night came late in the second period with the Penguins leading 1-0. Alex Ovechkin found space in the slot and fired a shot on goal that Fleury was able to deflect into the netting with the shaft of his stick to preserve the Penguins lead.
Those are just a handful of great moments in the decades long rivalry between the Penguins and Capitals. If you have a favorite moment that did not make the list, feel free to drop it in the comments for everyone to discuss.
Come back next week when we relive five great moments from the Penguins other hated rival, the Philadelphia Flyers.
What is your favorite Pens/Caps rivalry moment?
This poll is closed
Nedved wins it in 4OT
Straka sends the Caps packing
Crosby and Ovechkin trade hat tricks
Nick Bonino plays hero
Fleury’s Game 7 shutout
Other (Put it in the comments)