Pietrangelo, Penguins teammates recall ‘The Save’
When Penguins goaltender Frank Pietrangelo threw out his glove hand and robbed the New Jersey Devils’ Peter Stastny in Game 6 of the 1991 Patrick Division semifinals, it was just a save. A great one, to be sure, but it hadn’t earned a name.
But as the Penguins marched toward their first Stanley Cup championship, its stature ballooned and it became known simply as “The Save.”
Twenty years later, it’s considered a landmark moment for the Penguins, probably one of the two biggest in franchise history. (Marc-Andre Fleury’s save on Detroit’s Nick Lidstrom in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final bears mentioning as the other.)
“We were down in the series, so we needed to win that game to force a seventh game,” said announcer Mike Lange, who began doing Penguins radio broadcasts in 1974. “So that one probably, and the magic of it all, the way it turned out, turns out to be because it’s your first Cup year. It’s probably more pronounced.”
The setting was April 13, 1991, at Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., with the Devils holding a 3-2 series lead over the division champion Penguins.
Kevin Stevens had scored twice in the first period to stake the Penguins to a 2-1 lead.
Pietrangelo, playing in his first NHL postseason game because of an injury to Tom Barrasso, had left the Penguins short-handed after taking a delay of game penalty.
On the ensuing power play, Devils defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov took a shot from the point.
“It was a hard, bouncing-type of shot, (I) made the save and the rebound went out to the slot,” Pietrangelo said. “And Peter Stastny was coming in and, you know, had an open net.”
Stastny was well acquainted with scoring, having tallied at least 24 goals in each of his previous 10 NHL seasons.
But Pietrangelo robbed him, as the Penguins went on to win the game, 4-3. With Pietrangelo in net again for Game 7, the Penguins blanked the Devils, 4-0, and their run to the Cup continued.
“Without that,” right wing Scott Young said, “we possibly don’t win the Stanley Cup.”
ON THE ICE
The puck went up to the blue line, and I’m not sure who shot the puck in, but it kind of took a funny bounce before it got to me, so it was a hard, bouncing-type of shot, made the save and the rebound went out to the slot. And Peter Stastny was coming in and, you know, had an open net. I just reached back and tried to stop the puck and, lo and behold, it went in my glove. It was kind of a spectacular moment, I guess. It was something that you don’t realize what the impact of that was going to be until, obviously, later down the road, rightâ¢ But I guess it was just something meant to be.
But, you know, it’s just one of those things, bang bang, hockey’s a fast game, as we all know. The puck bounced out and there it was, and obviously my job is to make the save, but I guess it did turn out to be such a big turning point in the series because it gave us some belief, I guess, moving forward.
It came on a penalty. You know, it’s funny when you kill penalties, the idea is you never want to stand around, you just want to keep moving all the time. We were pretty aggressive and the puck — I don’t even know who was behind the net at the time — the puck got dumped down to a guy halfway between the goal and the corner, and I just took off after him and you’re just trying to force him to do something. The puck, he kind of slid it right across, and Stastny was sitting out in front, wide-open net. Nine out of 10 times, the guy would just roof it or do something with it. He kind of just took a swing at it and knocked it, and Frankie made a great save. At the time, you sit there and go, as you’re playing, you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, way to go, Frankie. You just made a save, way to go. That’s what your job is.’ As you see it in replay, the status of that grew and grew and grew.
IN THE PENALTY BOX
Well, I just saw Peter Stastny going in there having a wide-open net, and all of a sudden he was maybe a little underestimating the situation. He just kind of threw it on the net. All of a sudden, the glove came, and Pieter(angelo) made a save. It was unreal.
ON THE BENCH
I don’t remember much of it then. I keep seeing the replay, so that’s kind of taken over my feeling of what I remember when I was there. But I probably wasn’t as amazed at the time as I am when I see it now.
If you ask Bourquie, he knows that the goaltender, you know, he gave him a tap and, you know, you saved my bacon. Hey, that’s what they’re there for. That’s what Frankie was there for. You hate to leave your goalie out to dry. They’re not going to make that save too often.
It was one of those saves that brings you out of your seat. It gives you that little boost that maybe we needed to get by New Jersey at the time. It was just a game-saving save. We knew after that, that we had to do something to make that save stand.
Frankie always had a great glove. It’s just typical of the roles that players play. He put himself in as Tommy’s backup going in, and he made a great save that elevated us to win that game and continue on. He’s such a good guy, too, as far as the locker room.
I remember watching that just, it’s one of those you shake your head. Because you stay involved in the game, but at the time you’re like, wow. And you don’t talk a whole lot about it at the time, but it’s one of those momentum saves that really lifts your team. It just shows you what it takes to win a Stanley Cup, with someone that’s not playing hardly at all jumps in and does something like that. Without that, we possibly don’t win the Stanley Cup.
I remember that it was an unbelievable stop. At that point in the series, we were in bad shape,
that series in New Jersey we were down, and I definitely think that was a huge turning point for us winning the Stanley Cup. It was an amazing stop, probably the biggest of the playoffs. If he doesn’t make that, we probably don’t go on to win the Stanley Cup.
I remember when I went to the Bruins, I got traded to the Bruins, Tommy McVie was our assistant coach with the Bruins — he was the head coach with New Jersey. He was a very nice guy. He had commented on, you know, he knew they were done after that game.
I was right there when it happened on the bench and you could just really sense, at least I did, a sense on the bench that everyone just kind of, the whole emotion just changed. It really changed the series, in a sense.
It’s timing, it’s instinct for sure. It takes a lot of luck sometimes, but I mean in that situation, I’m sure for Frank there was some instinct to throw that hand out there, whether the guy shot it in there or not, I mean he made that save and he was in the right place at the right time to make that save. It probably changed the fate of that series really.
I think it was (Phil) Bourquie who was the winger. I think he was the left winger. He lost his guy coming down through the slot, I think it was (Peter) Stastny who kind of came down through the slot, and Bourquie was a little late picking him up. That cross-ice pass came, and he had him down and out and it’s just one of those, Frankie threw his glove out there. Stastny just put it, Frankie had it in the right place. Stastny shot it in the right place from our perspective. That’s what I remember about it. You have to have all those little moments to build on, to grow that you know you’re going to win.
That’s obviously a huge save for us. That save turned the series and the momentum we gained from that. It’s one of those saves … you almost put your head down, thought it was over there and thought it was in. But then big Frankie came up with that save. It was just an amazing save.
There was a number of us in the box at the Meadowlands. From our angle, it was unbelievable really. It’s amazing. Whenever you see a replay of it, we were behind that net, so we got a great opportunity to see it live and then when you saw the replay of it, it was phenomenal. Frank Pietrangelo is one of those guys that truly falls into that category of somebody that had to be prepared and ready to play, and he was when it came time for him to get in.
After the fact and then reliving it again and watching it on film, you realize how special it was. You knew it was a big save, but then you didn’t realize the impact of it and how really fantastic it was until after the fact.
At various times, somebody had to come up and rise to the occasion to get you to the next level, and that series it was Frankie. And again, what I can remember, before the series started, people weren’t really sure what to expect from the team and from various positions. But watching the town take him under their wing and ride the wave of emotion was just tremendous. When he made those giant, giant saves at various times throughout that series, it was just great.
He comes across and makes that glove save, and it’s just like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was called ‘The Save.’ Frankie did a great job stepping in there.
We had the best view of it. To this day, I can still see it. It was one of the most unbelievable saves I’ve ever seen.
That was a huge turning point. We were down, three games to two going into Jersey. We were winning the game, and they were coming on and to make that save, it was just, you know there’s little things that happen throughout the course of the playoffs. You wonder, you hear the word destiny all the time, and something like that, you wonder if you’re destined to win.
I was in the luxury box right behind the net actually, perfect location in the old Meadowlands, perfect location because we were in awe that the puck wasn’t in the net. We were just basically wondering why the light didn’t go on.
You usually pinpoint one thing in a run to a Cup, and that was probably it right there. Jersey was coming back and they were coming at us. When all of sudden that happened, you could just see their shoulders drop and the tide seemed to turn there. We were on our way.
I don’t think it’s luck; I think it’s a little bit of a desperation save especially with a guy who has an empty net. You know, Frankie didn’t have his glove low; he didn’t have it high. He had it in the perfect spot, so I don’t call that luck when you’re making a save like that.
We were up behind our goal and I just remember sitting there going, almost like saying, ‘We’re done.’ And all of a sudden, it’s in his glove, you know. That was a big turning point, that’s for sure.
FROM THE PRESS BOX
I knew that he made the save, the puck didn’t go in the net, that’s a key ingredient. But more important than that, there were two goals in that game that were disallowed. Both were ruled to be kicked in, and neither one of them were kicked in. So they didn’t have instant replay at that time, they didn’t use it. That’s the big reason why we won that game. It really is. We knew at that time, when that started happening, that maybe the hockey gods were following the Penguins. That’s the truth, that’s what happened in that game.
That save, it was probably bigger than the one in Detroit (in 2008) only because if Detroit had scored, you would have gone to overtime. You would have had an opportunity to win. I can’t remember all the details of what the score was and what we were doing when (Pietrangelo) made the save. That one just seemed to be so much more pronounced at the time and what had happened. We were down in the series, so we needed to win that game to force a seventh game. So that one probably, and the magic of it all, the way it turned out, turns out to be because it’s your first Cup year. It’s probably more pronounced.