When the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators met in the 2007 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, it marked the first time since 2001, the Penguins qualified for the playoffs.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators met in the 2007 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, the clubs found themselves at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Ottawa was riding a 10-season postseason streak and Pittsburgh was making their first playoff appearance since 2001.
The Penguins were riding high, heading into the playoffs, backed by one of the best single-season turnarounds in NHL history.
After back-to-back 58 point seasons in 2003-04 and 2005-06, the Penguins earned 105 points in 2006-07, which represented a 47 point increase.
Things were looking up for the Pittsburgh Penguins, with a stable of young guns in the dawn of their prolific careers (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jordan Staal) all that needed to be secured was a place to showcase their immense talents, whether it was in Pittsburgh or somewhere else.
(Note: This a just an extremely brief recap) In mid-Mar. after a long period of tedious negotiations and failed ownership changes, the Penguins announced they reached a deal with the state of Pennsylvania to build a new arena in Pittsburgh.
The deal ended years of speculation that the team would be relocating to other another State (Kansas City and Las Vegas), or country (Canada)
The State was going to cover the $290 million arena construction cost and the Penguins would pay $4.2 million-plus operating and capital expenses (a year) for 30 years and would get all the revenue.
Down to Business
The Penguins and Senators met three times during the month of Mar. and beginning of Apr. with Pittsburgh taking the win in all three games (two in shootouts) by one goal.
The teams each finished with 105 points, but Ottawa took home-ice advantage as they carried an extra win.
Game One – Apr. 11, 2007
To say things did not go well for the Penguins in the first playoff game of the Sidney Crosby era would be an understatement.
From the drop of the puck in the first period, Pittsburgh was dominated in every area of the ice. It took Ottawa less than two minutes to put five shots on goal and take a 1-0 lead, on an Andrej Meszaros goal.
By the midway point of the second period the Penguins had only generated two shots at even-strength, and by the end of the period, forwards Crosby, Malkin, and Staal had put a combined two shots on net.
The Senators took the game 6-3 and a 1-0 series lead.
Game Two – Apr. 14, 2007
With a vast majority of the team tasting their first playoff blood, the Penguins looked to put their performance from game one behind them and start game two in a smoother fashion.
Pittsburgh got the first goal of the game when Ryan Whitney scored three minutes into the first period, but Ottawa scored the next two goals and carried a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Gary Roberts drew the Penguins even at two goals apiece with a power-play goal, two minutes into the third period.
Chris Kelly reclaimed the lead for Ottawa four minutes later, but Pittsburgh kept pushing, Staal scored the equalizer, then Crosby finished the job scoring the game-winning goal with 9 minutes remaining in the third period.
The Penguins held on for the 4-3 win and tied the series up at one game each.
Pittsburgh got strong games from Fleury, who made 34 saves, and from Malkin, Roberts, Crosby, and Sergei Gonchar who each collected two points.
Close but Far
Game Three – Apr. 15. 2007
With less than a day between games, Pittsburgh had little time to revel in their victory.
In front of a home town crowd, the Penguins looked to establish the pace and got off to a strong start as Roberts scored a goal less than a minute into play.
The momentum would be short-lived, however, as Ottawa led by Daniel Alfredsson, would rattle off the next four goals and head into the third period with a 4-1 lead.
Crosby scored with 6 minutes left in the game, to draw Pittsburgh within two goals, but that’s as close as they would get.
Ottawa took the game 4-2 and a 2-1 series lead.
Game Four – Apr. 17, 2007
Pittsburgh brought their best effort forward in game four of the series and hoped to avoid going down 3-1 in the series.
This was the best game of the series if you enjoy low-scoring, tight-checking affairs.
The margin for error was minimal and unfortunate the Penguins found themselves on the losing end of the score at the end of the third period.
One goal was scored in each period, and Anton Volchenkov‘s tally midway through the third period stood as the game-winner.
Ray Emery had another solid game for Ottawa, as he turned away four shots each from Crosby and Malkin and made 23 total saves on the night.
Ottawa took a 3-1 lead back home and looked to close out the series in front of the home town crowd.
The End of the Beginning?
Game Five – Apr. 19, 2007
With their backs against the wall, the Penguins had no choice but to leave it out all on the ice, and do what they could to try and stay alive in the series.
Sadly, their best efforts were thwarted by a red-hot Emery who refused to give Pittsburgh an opportunity to find a way to get back into the series.
The Senators scored three goals in the second period, which were enough to put the Penguins season on the ice.
Emery did not have a busy night but turned away all 20 shots, including 6 shots from Crosby and three each from Gonchar and Ryan Malone to earn the shutout.
Malkin all but disappeared in game 5, generating zero shots in 21 minutes of play.
Ottawa took the series 4-1.
While the series loss was disappointing, the Pittsburgh Penguins were looking at a very bright future, and the end of the series ushered in a new era of hockey in Pittsburgh.
How do you think the Pittsburgh Penguins did in the series?