Where Were You in ’92?

Penguins Nation, if you spent Tuesday morning staring vacantly at your coffee mug or gazing into the abyss of your Geometry book searching for answers to Monday night’s stunning Game 2 loss, you are not alone. It’s okay to be bummed out.

When Alexander Ovechkin careened into the Penguins’ zone, used Sergei Gonchar as a screen and sealed the game by roofing a ferocious snapshot over Marc-Andre Fleury’s shoulder, you were justifiably bewildered.

As Ovechkin celebrated by jumping into the glass partition that separated him from the ocean of red Capitals’ fans, all man-hugging and fist-pounding in jubilation, you caught a fleeting glimpse of your childhood. A strange hurt overcame you – a familiar feeling of anguish. And then you remembered when you felt that same horrible ache before…

 recently-updated30Second Grade. Recess. Susie DeFazio kicked you in the shin. You cried on the inside for days.

 Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No one said it was going to be easy. If you were ready to throw in the towel after the gut-wrenching shin-kick that was the Ovechkin goal, then I have some PNC Park all-you-can-eat bleacher seats that I’d like to sell you. Go sit in the sun with a ten dollar Iron City and try to field stale hotdogs launched out of a food cannon. Be my guest.

 recently-updated28-1The Hotdog Launcher®: Perfect for Weddings!

If you want to be a flag waver, then by all means go raise the Jolly Roger. True Pittsburgh Penguins fans have been here before. We’ve been down and out, left for dead. In 1992, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins took on a talented, hungry Washington Capitals team in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Penguins lost the first two games of the series in Washington, 3-1 and 6-2. After the second loss, Gen-X Pens fans turned off the bittersweet comfort of Mike Lange on KBL, shut off all the lights, and whimpered in the dark while listening to Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road.”

Note: Babyboomer Pens fans, simply substitute Boyz II Men for Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”

 recently-updated27Was this you in ’92?

Just as Penguins fans were preparing to call it a season and head down to Three Rivers Stadium to cheer on pre-BALCO Barry Bonds and post-mustache Doug Drabek, a funny thing happened.

 recently-updated31Garth, cue the flashback!

The Penguins rallied back to win Game 3 at the Civic Arena, but their defense unraveled in Game 4 and the Capitals dismantled the Pens 7-2. When the horn sounded and the lights dimmed on the Igloo and organist Vince Lascheid played a somber exit tune, it looked like the Penguins’ title defense was over. What happened next should serve as an enduring reminder to Penguins Nation of the power of perseverance and the magic of the game we love.

 recently-updated29With the Pens facing elimination, Nombre Soixante-Six remembered the feeling of hoisting his first Stanley Cup, and he refused to quit.

With the Penguins at their lowest point, Lemieux began one of the most epic playoff performances in NHL history. After leading the Pens to an improbable three straight victories over the shell-shocked Capitals, he went on to score 16 goals and record 18 assists en route to a second Stanley Cup title. Of his 16 playoff goals, five were game-winners.

Flash forward to 2009.

Monday night, with the Pens down by two goals with less than a minute to play, Sidney Crosby refused to give up. Like the architect of the ’92 comeback, Mario Lemieux, he battled until the final whistle, still chipping away in front of the net.

Crosby’s perseverance in planting himself in front of opponents’ nets in order to score the dirty goals is not just an evolution of his game, it’s an affirmation that he understands, just as his landlord and mentor Lemieux did, the sacrifice it takes to win a Stanley Cup. His late fourth-effort goal wasn’t enough to salvage the game for the Pens, but it sent a clear message to the Capitals as they prepare to leave the friendly confines of the Verizon Center for Mellon Arena.

 recently-updated32“Remember ’92, Chief. This is far from over.”

Penguins Nation – it’s okay to be bummed out, but it’s not in your blood to give up. When the lights go up at Mellon Arena for Wednesday’s Game 3, I hope your collective roar reverberates the tiles off the Igloo’s 47-year-old roof. Enough with the white-outs and waving around cheap bar towels.

Just make some old fashioned noise and galvanize your team. Because if you’re buying that this series is already over, then I have a whole crate of old Kriss-Kross and Ace of Base cassettes I’d like to sell you.

 recently-updated33If you recall, it was Kriss-Kross who made you Jump, Jump. But perhaps some memories are better left in the past.

We want to know your thoughts on the Penguins’ playoff performance. Which players need to step up? Should Sykora ride the pine? Has anyone seen Chris Kunitz? Let us know in the comments section. 

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