Ranking the top 20 most dramatic goals in Penguins history
Eight minutes before midnight, with a berth in the Stanley Cup Final on the line, Chris Kunitz scored one of the most dramatic goals in Penguins history Thursday night, beating goalie Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime for a 3-2 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
But was it the most dramatic?
Staff writer Jonathan Bombulie consulted with a panel of experts — Penguins historian Bob Grove, long-time television play-by-play man Paul Steigerwald, radio color analyst and two-time Stanley Cup champion Phil Bourque, Guy Junker of WTAE-TV and Mark Madden of 105.9 FM — then ranked the most dramatic goals in team history.
1. Mario Lemieux · Game 1, Stanley Cup Final, 1992
Penguins 5, Blackhawks 4
Looking to defend their first Stanley Cup championship, the Penguins fell behind 4-1 in the second period before making a furious rally. Jaromir Jagr tied the score with an all-time highlight-reel backhand goal with less than five minutes left. Lemieux was in perfect position to bury the rebound of a Larry Murphy shot from the top of the right circle for the game winner with 12.6 seconds left in regulation. Madden said Civic Arena never rocked like it did at that moment.
2. Chris Kunitz · Game 7, Eastern Conference finals, 2017
Penguins 3, Senators 2 (2OT)
There are few moments in hockey more dramatic than overtime of Game 7 in a conference final. Win and you play for the sport’s greatest prize. Lose and you’re just like 27 other teams who don’t. Kunitz gave the Penguins a chance to defend their Stanley Cup title when he took a Sidney Crosby pass and scored from the top of the left faceoff circle 5:09 into the second overtime. He had gone the previous 34 games without a goal.
3. Max Talbot · Game 7, Stanley Cup Final, 2009
Penguins 2, Red Wings 1
It’s a scene Bourque said he’ll never forget – Talbot flying up the left wing on a two-on-one with Tyler Kennedy, picking a corner, then dropping to his knees and pumping his fists in celebration. The goal gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead in the middle of the second period and was Talbot’s second of the game. It set the stage for Marc-Andre Fleury’s iconic save on Nicklas Lidstrom as time expired to preserve the victory.
4. Petr Nedved · Game 4, Eastern conference quarterfinals, 1996
Penguins 3, Capitals 2 (4OT)
In danger of falling behind 3-1 in a first-round series with Washington, the Penguins needed a win in the worst way. Nedved gave it to them, taking a pass from Sergei Zubov in the left circle, pausing a moment to change his shooting angle and hitting paydirt in the final minute of the fourth overtime. It is the fifth-longest game in NHL history.
5. Ron Francis · Game 4, Patrick Division finals, 1992
Penguins 5, Rangers 4 (OT)
In Game 2, Adam Graves broke Lemieux’s wrist with a slash. In Game 3, Kris King scored in overtime to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the series. Make no mistake, the Penguins were in trouble. In the opening minutes of overtime, Larry Murphy knocked the puck off the stick of Mark Messier and Francis finished the chance in front, turning series momentum in favor of the Penguins.
6. George Ferguson · Game 3, preliminary round, 1979
Penguins 4, Sabres 3 (OT)
The three previous springs, the Penguins ended their season with a loss in a do-or-die affair – Game 7 of a second-round series with the Islanders in 1975 and Game 3 of a best-of-three preliminary series with the Maple Leafs the next two years. Ferguson took a long bank pass off the boards from Gregg Sheppard, flew up the left wing and beat goalie Bob Sauve to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.
7. Darius Kasparaitis · Game 7, Eastern Conference semifinals, 2001
Penguins 3, Sabres 2 (OT)
Only two players in Penguins history have ended Game 7 of a playoff series with an overtime goal. Kunitz was the second on Thursday night. Kasparaitis was the first. Known more as a vicious hitter than a goal scorer of any kind, Kasparaitis was the trailer in a three-on-two situation, taking a pass from Robert Lang and ripping a shot from the slot past Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek. He memorably slid on his stomach on the ice in celebration.
8. Luc Robitaille · Game 5 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, 1995
Penguins 6, Capitals 5 (OT)
After falling behind 3-1 in the series, the Penguins sprung to life with perhaps the most unlikely overtime assist in franchise history. Finding a loose puck in the neutral zone, 6-foot-6, 247-pound heavyweight Francois Leroux decided against the simple play of dumping the puck deep and instead deftly maneuvered his way up the right wing, feeding Robitaille in the slot for a goal. The Penguins won the next two games by a combined score of 10-1.
9. Petr Sykora · Game 5, Stanley Cup Final, 2008
Penguins 4, Red Wings 3 (3OT)
With the Red Wings fully expecting to celebrate a championship on this night, Talbot scored with an extra attacker on the ice in the final minute of regulation to set up the fifth-longest Stanley Cup Final game in NHL history. Midway through the third overtime, Evgeni Malkin picked up a rebound off the end boards and fed Sykora for a goal from the right faceoff circle, stalling the best-laid plans of Detroit fans.
10. Jaromir Jagr · Game 6, Eastern Conference quarterfinals, 1999
Penguins 3, Devils 2 (OT)
With the Penguins facing elimination, Jagr returned from a groin injury that kept him out the previous four games. He scored the tying goal late in regulation, then finished off a cross-ice pass from Martin Straka in overtime to send the Penguins to a Game 7 they would win 4-2. Jagr later said the goal saved the franchise, contending that the revenue from a second round of playoffs allowed the Penguins to avoid moving to Kansas City.
11. Mario Lemieux · Game 6, Eastern Conference semifinals, 2001
Penguins 3, Sabres 2
A deflected Alexei Kovelev shot landed right on Lemieux’s stick on the doorstep for the tying goal with 1:18 left in the third. It was dubbed the “Immaculate Deflection.”
12. Kris Letang · Game 3, Eastern Conference semifinals, 2009
Penguins 3, Capitals 2 (OT)
Having lost the first two games of the series, Letang scored on a blast from the blue line in overtime to give the Penguins life.
13. Nick Bonino · Game 6, Eastern Conference semifinals, 2016
Penguins 4, Capitals 3 (OT)
After a frantic third period that included three delay of game calls, Bonino finished off the Capitals with an overtime winner. The Punjabi play-by-play call will live forever.
14. Martin Straka · Game 6, Eastern Conference semifinals, 2001
Penguins 3, Sabres 2 (OT)
After Lemieux’s goal tied it late in the third period, Robert Lang forced a turnover on the forecheck and Straka finished the chance to force Game 7.
15. Conor Sheary · Game 2, Stanley Cup Final, 2016
Penguins 2, Sharks 1 (OT)
Crosby drew up the play in the dirt, winning a faceoff back to Letang, who hit Sheary at the top of the left circle for a shot and a goal that gave the Penguins control in the series.
16. Michel Briere · Game 4, quarterfinals, 1970
Penguins 3, Seals 2 (OT)
The first overtime goal in franchise history gave the Penguins the first playoff series victory in franchise history when Briere finished off a sweep of Oakland.
17. Rick Kehoe · Game 3, Patrick Division semifinals, 1982
Penguins 2, Islanders 1 (OT)
Kehoe’s overtime goal put a scare into coach Al Arbour and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs. The best-of-five series went to a fifth game before the Islanders prevailed in overtime.
18. Phil Bourque · Game 3, Patrick Division finals, 1989
Penguins 4, Flyers 3 (OT)
Bourque finished off a pass from Robbie Brown in overtime to give the Penguins their first playoff victory in Philadelphia.
19. Greg Polis · Game 77, 1972
Penguins 4, Flyers4
If the Penguins lost, they’d be eliminated from playoff contention. Polis tipped in an Eddie Shack shot with 46 seconds left in the third period to give them the tie they needed.
20. Max Talbot · Game 5, Stanley Cup Final, 2008
Penguins 4, Red Wings 3
Talbot jammed in a loose puck at the right post to set up Sykora’s winner in three overtimes and stave off a Red Wings victory party.