On Apr. 27, 1994, the Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated in game 6 of their first-round series vs. Washington Capitals by a score of 6-3.
Their 1994 series marked the third time in four seasons that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals had met in the postseason. Pittsburgh claimed victories in the 1991 and 1992 series and went on to capture back-to-back Stanley Cups, but what went wrong in this series?
Let’s take a look.
Early Series Gains
The move paid off as Washington, went 20-12-6 to finish the regular season.
The Capitals took game one by a score of 5-3 and executed their game plan against the Penguins big guns with physicality and patience.
For game two of the series, Pittsburgh altered its strategy and elected to join their opponents with a strong emphasis put on the defensive side of the ice.
The Penguins improved to 8-0 in game two of a series on home ice and claimed a victory despite registering just four shots in the final two periods of the game.
Mid Series Pains
Game 3 saw the teams compete in another tight-scoring affair, with Washington earning a 2-0 win. It was the first time in 95 playoff games that Pittsburgh had been shut-out and first of the 1993-94 season. The last time the Penguins were shutout in the postseason was a 4-0 loss to Toronto in 1976.
The Capitals suppressed Lemieux’s ability to generate any offense and limited the superstar to three shots.
Joe Reekie scored both goals for Washington.
Game 4 again saw Washington blanket the Penguins forwards in defensive coverage as Lemieux, Jagr, and Martin Straka were all limited to two shots each, although Straka scored Pittsburgh’s lone goal.
The Capitals took the game 4-1 and earned a 3-1 series lead, setting the Penguins up for another early-round exit.
By the conclusion of the game, Pittsburgh had only scored one goal in 7 periods and had managed one goal in18 powerplay opportunities in four games.
Early Exit Disdain
If Pittsburgh was going to muster up a win, they would have to modify the “sit back and wait for it” approach that head coach Eddie Johnston had implemented.
The Capitals entered the game with a little trepidation, as they had dropped a 3-1 series lead twice in their franchise history, 1987 to the New York Islanders and 1992 to Pittsburgh.
In a couple of interesting line-up changes, the Capitals went back to rookie goaltender Byron Dafoe, who took the loss in game 2 of the series, and the Penguins added assistant coach Bryan Trottier back to the roster for the first time since mid-Feb.
The Penguins benefitted from an early goal from Shawn McEachern, which certainly eased the tension, surrounding Pittsburgh’s inability to score.
With two goals 1:35 apart in the second period, Washington took a 2-1 lead. Kevin Stevens tied the score up late in the second period, and Jagr scored the game-winner with 10 minutes left in the third.
Pittsburgh bought themselves an opportunity to tie the series up in game six at US Airways Arena in Washington.
The Capitals came to play in game 6, earning a 3-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game, and that about sealed the deal on the season for the Penguins. Washington added three goals, and Pittsburgh mustered a little offense, scoring three goals of their own. The Capitals took the game 6-3 and the series 4-2.
The anchor to the Penguins Cup wins in 1991 and 1992 was their ability to convert on the powerplay. During the series vs. the Capitals, Pittsburgh converted on two of 27 powerplay opportunities.
Washington found a way to subdue the potent power of the Penguins and move on to a second-round match up with the New York Rangers.
Pittsburgh was left with more questions than answers, including would Lemieux retire? did the championship window close? and how were they going to address their financial needs?
Do you think the Pittsburgh Penguins would have defeated the Rangers if they met in the second round?
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