How the Pittsburgh Penguins lost the 1970 Semi-Finals

Pittsburgh Penguins, Les Binkley, (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Penguins, Les Binkley, (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

On Apr. 30, 1970, the St. Louis Blues eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in game 6 of the 1970 semi-finals by a score of 4-3. Here is a look back at that series.

Coach Red Kelly led the Pittsburgh Penguins to their first postseason appearance in the third season of their existence in the NHL and it was his first year with the team.

The Penguins finished 5th place in the previous two seasons and Kelly led the team to a second-place finish and a first-round sweep of the Oakland Seals.

For his efforts, Kelly was named “coach of the year” in the midst of the Penguins’ second-round series vs. St. Louis.

Here is a look back at the 1970 semi-finals.

Close yet far

Game 1

Although it was just the first period in the first game of the series, the Penguins and Blues wasted little time in “getting to know” each other, as things went sour 19 seconds into the game and carried on throughout the night. Referee Art Skov assessed 61 minutes in penalties in the first period.

By the end of the night, Skov handed out 11 majors, seven minors, and 149 total minutes in penalties.

There was an actual hockey game played with St. Louis putting three goals in six minutes on the board in the second period which helped them take Game 1 by a score of 3-1 and earn a 1-0 series lead.

Pittsburgh’s Ken Schinkel managed to put the lone goal past Glen Hall, who was playing in the 109th playoff game of his career and Les Binkley made 30 saves for the Penguins in the loss.

Game 2

St. Louis got on the board 30 seconds into game 2 and added two more goals before the horn sounded at the end of the first period, building a 3-0 lead.

The Penguins were unable to get much going in the game aside from a goal scored by Michel Briere in the third period.

Overall Pittsburgh put 24 shots on Blues goaltender Jaques Plante. Binkley, who lost five of six regular-season games between the clubs made 33 stops in the loss for the Penguins.

St. Louis won 4-1 and took a 2-0 lead with them to Pittsburgh.

No Place like home

Game 3

The Penguins came alive in game three of the series, either sparked by the strong play of Briere or by the largest crowd to witness a hockey game in Pittsburgh (12, 923).

Briere scored a goal and added an assist, in the Penguins’ most complete game of the series.

Pittsburgh was able to kill off penalties and limit the Blues opportunities with the extra attacker and dictated much of the pace of the game.

The result was a slim 3-2 victory, that brought the Penguins back into the series.

Game 4

Briere again played the hero for the Penguins in their 2-1 victory over the Blues in game 4, which notched the series up at two games each.

Briere added a goal and an assist and thwarted Blues coach Scotty Bowman’s strategy of playing the largest players on the Blues (Bob Plager and Noel Picard) against the Penguins speedy line (Briere, Jean Pronvost, and Keith McCreary).

Ernie Wakley was the third goaltender the Blues used in the series and made 49 saves on 51 shots. Pittsburgh went with Al Smith for the first time in the series and he made 23 saves on 24 shots.

Not Enough in the tank

Game 5

With the Penguins just two wins away from a trip to their first Stanley Cup Final, they picked a horrible time to self implode.

St. Louis took the game and series lead with a 5-0 thrashing of Pittsburgh. Frank St. Marseille led the Blues attack with three goals.

Pittsburgh got away from what made them successful in games 3 and 4, and let the potent powerplay of the Blues run loose.

Prior to the game, Bowman announced that Plante would take game 5, and Hall would play in game 6. It seemed like an interesting choice considering how well Wakley played in game 4, but the move paid off for Plante after he earned a 21 save shutout and set the NHL record for most playoff shutouts (13)

Game 6

If the Penguins were going to win game 6 and force a decisive game 7 matchup they were going to have to score first and grab a win on the road.

Not only did the home team win the previous five games they also scored the first goal.

Pittsburgh got the start it wanted by scoring the first two goals of the game from Duane Rupp and Ron Schock, but could not hold the lead, as the Blues battled back twice from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits.

The nail in the Penguins coffin came with less than six minutes to play when Larry Keenan buried a loose puck into the wide-open Pittsburgh net.

St. Louis took the game 4-3 and won the series 4-2, securing their third consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance.

How do you think the Pittsburgh Penguins fared in their first postseason appearance?

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