Kris Letang became the third Penguin to win the Masterton trophy at the NHL Awards Monday night.
Here’s a look back at the three Penguins the NHL has honored as exemplifying “perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
Lowell MacDonald (1973)
In the 1968-69 campaign, his second full NHL season, MacDonald skated for 58 games and scored 14 goals for the Los Angeles Kings.
Then he suffered a severe knee injury which required six surgeries in a single year.
MacDonald did not touch NHL ice for three years. For a while, it did not look like he would ever return to playing professionally.
Then he made his return with the Penguins in 1972-93, switched from left to right wing to flank Syl Apps Jr., and scored 34 times.
Mario Lemieux (1993)
Coming out of an Art Ross Trophy-winning 1991-92 regular season and Conn Smythe-worthy playoffs in 1992, 27-year-old Lemieux seemed unstoppable in 1992.
He opened the season by setting a franchise record with 12 goals in 12 straight games and never stopped scoring. By January 5, 1993, he had racked up 39 goals and 104 points in 40 games and looked set to challenge Gretzky’s records of 92 and 215 in a reason, respectively.
Then, on January 12, the Penguins announced Lemieux had been diagnosed with cancer.
He returned to the ice less than two months later for a game in Philadelphia, earning a standing ovation from Flyers fans when he scored two minutes into the second period.
In one of the most successful comebacks in professional sports history, Lemieux came back to win his second straight Art Ross with 160 points while taking the Penguins to the franchise’s first President’s Trophy with an NHL record 17-game win streak.
Kris Letang (2023)
Letang suffered the second stroke of his NHL career on November 30. He returned to practice less than two weeks later and was back on the roster by December 10, but then suffered the loss of his father, Claude Fouquet, in early January.
When he next played on January 24, Letang celebrated his return to the Penguins by scoring in overtime against the visiting Florida Panthers.
Letang finished with 41 points in 64 games. Only Brian Dumoulin and Sidney Crosby spent more time on the ice. That successful comeback, akin to MacDonald’s and Lemieux’s, was enough to make him the third Masterton winner in franchise history.