Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Penguins’ Epitaph: So Close and Yet So Far Away

To win the Stanley Cup Championship you have to be good, but you also have to be lucky. The Penguins weren’t enough of either this time.



Embed from Getty Images

The Capitals had finally exorcised their franchise demon, but in the immediate aftermath Brooks Orpik repeatedly referenced something that hadn’t happened.

“An inch the other way and we’re going to Game 7,” Orpik acknowledged late Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.

He was talking about Penguins winger Tom Kuhnhackl blasting a shot off of a goal post less than three minutes into overtime.

Less than three minutes after that, Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on a breakaway and Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals was history.

And so were the Penguins.

Did Washington’s 2-1 victory in Game 6 and the series really come down to that?

Not entirely, but there’s no doubt random chance was a factor.

It usually is in the postseason.

Ultimately, the Penguins got what they deserved. The six-game elimination that denied them a three-peat was mostly attributable to, in no particular order, Matt Murray not being as good as goaltending counterpart Braden Holtby, unforced breakdowns in structure that made Murray’s job much more difficult than it needed to be, and a lack of secondary scoring.

But Kuhnhackl’s near-miss rip off the pipe was the type of break the Capitals needed at the precise moment when such a turn of good fortune was necessary.

Washington’s T.J. Oshie had struck iron on a first-period power play, but had his shot instead found the back of the net it still wouldn’t have ended the game.

Kuhnhackl’s could have but didn’t.

Perhaps that’s why Orpik, a Cup-winning defenseman with the Penguins in 2009, was much more relieved than euphoric after finally surviving a postseason series against his former team  on his third consecutive try, and after the Caps had finally crossed what had been a bridge too far in nine of the two franchises’ 10 previous postseason meetings.

“When you get in a long series like this, it can go either way,” Orpik maintained “You definitely need some luck on your side and, obviously, we got that with the shot off the post.”

The teams that survive and advance don’t leave it up to chance.

But once it gets to overtime anything can happen.

Nick Bonino got the Penguins on the right side of an OT goal and the right side of the post-series handshake in Game 6 against the Caps in 2016.

And Sidney Crosby kept the Penguins from falling into what would have been a foreboding, two-games-to-none hole against Tampa Bay in the 2016 postseason with some quick-strike overtime magic.

Those occurrences stand as two examples, but far from the only two, of the type of close shaves that had to be navigated somehow, some way in the Penguins’ previous two runs through the playoffs.

They didn’t just steamroll their way to consecutive Stanley Cups.

In the event they’d forgotten as much, the way the extra session played out on Monday night and the way the series ended against Washington provided a painful reminder.

“You understand just how difficult it is and what a fine line it is between winning and losing,” Crosby allowed.

You have to be good, but you also have to be lucky.

The Penguins weren’t enough of either this time.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

MultiStories: Three Times a Bust – The German National Bank

The bank was at the center of a corruption scandal which eventually led to an overhaul of Pittsburgh city government.

Matters of the Heart

In a city of eds and meds, it’s to be expected that some couples are going to meet in the medical field. We found some of the best “meet-cutes” from recent Pittsburgh weddings.

At Scene75, Be a Kid (or Bring Your Kids)

The entertainment center in Edgewood is a great time with or without little ones.

Pitt Attaches Old-School Signature to Narduzzi’s Championship Prediction

Thanks to wide receivers recognized for their blocking ability and an offensive line endearingly referred to as “knuckleheads“ –– the Panthers are one win away from making their head coach's bold pre-season prediction a reality.

Pittsburgh Restaurant News: Reduced Hours and a Chef Change

Two Oakland restaurants now have shorter hours and a chef moves from Downtown to Lawrenceville.

What Unites Us In the Wake of the Tree of Life Tragedy

We asked local faith leaders for their response to the massacre at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill –– and how we can come together and more forward as a community.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Review: Molinaro Ristorante

Ron Molinaro's Downtown restaurant offers high-end Italian dishes made with top-notch ingredients, but is it worth the price premium?

Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2018 Honorees

Pittsburgh Magazine highlights the unsung heroes of the health care field: our Excellence in Nursing honorees, chosen by our panel of distinguished judges in the field.

Nursing Shortage in Pittsburgh Calls for Creative Solutions

RetuRN to Practice entices retired nurses back Into the field.

Fine Art Meets High Fashion at the Carnegie International

With the Carnegie International as the backdrop, we feature work by local fashion designer Elaine Healey, who has been morphing from luxury womenswear to a more “non-binary” style.

The 400-Word Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

While Harry Potter diehards will find more than enough sustenance in the sequel, non-devotees may have a rough time following the action.

Pittsburgh's Tomorrow – What We Need in the Future

As the year comes to a close, we look forward to what Pittsburgh can be –– and what we'd like to see change –– in the coming years.

How to Shop Like a Pro for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh

Our guide to produce, pastries, libations and more will help your table brim with tasty treats from Pittsburgh-area businesses.

Drink Like the French on Beaujolais Nouveau Day

Why and where to celebrate on Thursday, which marks the annual release of the young wine.

‘X’ Marks the Spot for This Wedding Scavenger Hunt

She thought she was going on a simple scavenger hunt. She never dreamed it would end with a wedding.