Pittsburgh, PA
Thursday
January 17, 2019
    News           Sports           Lifestyle           Classifieds           About Us
Sports
 
The Morning File
Carfax
Salary.com
Headlines by E-mail
Home >  Sports >  Penguins Printer-friendly versionE-mail this story
Penguins Kasparaitis a hit in '93 playoff upset

Thursday, April 12, 2001

By Dave Molinari, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Mario Lemieux has experienced the gamut of playoff emotions.

The unbridled ecstasy of winning a championship. The excruciating dejection of elimination.

 
 
What's their lines?

Likely forward combinations and defense pairings for Game 1:

   
 

He knows, however, that not all playoff losses are created equal. Some hurt more than others. More than almost anything.

And the one the Penguins endured in 1993, when they were upset by the New York Islanders in the second round, probably hurt more than any other in franchise history.

Not because it happened at home. In a seventh game. In overtime.

No, what made that loss so difficult to accept was that it wasn't supposed to happen.

The Penguins were too strong, too deep, too skilled. New York was widely envisioned as little more than a speed bump on the road to the Penguins' third consecutive Stanley Cup.

And players on both teams knew it.

"All my friends on Long Island, they told me, 'If you win one game, we're going to buy you dinner,' " said Darius Kasparaitis, a defenseman on that Islanders team. "We were prepared to play hard, but we didn't expect to win the series because that team was one of the best teams we'd played against."

One of the best teams in recent NHL history. The Penguins had set a league record by winning 17 consecutive games during the stretch drive and captured the only Presidents' Trophy in franchise history by piling up 119 points.

After the Penguins trampled New Jersey, coached by Herb Brooks, in five games during Round 1, the only question that really seemed to matter was whether the Stanley Cup celebration should be held at Point State Park or Three Rivers Stadium.

But the Islanders shocked the Penguins by winning Game 1 at the Civic Arena, 3-2, then, after losing three of the next four, New York won Games 6 and 7 -- the latter on David Volek's overtime goal -- to complete one of the most staggering upsets in recent NHL history.

"That was our best team, we felt, and we were going for three in a row," Lemieux said. "We had a great run at the end [of the regular season], winning 17 in a row, but we played a tough team in the playoffs and just ran out of gas."

Actually, the Penguins wouldn't be surprised if they reviewed tapes of the Islanders series and discovered that Kasparaitis had siphoned it out of their tanks. After all, he did everything else imaginable to torment them, especially Lemieux and Jagr.

So much so that the idea of doing a little bodily harm to Kasparaitis had an undeniable appeal.

"I still want to kill him," Lemieux said, smiling.

He was kidding, of course.

Probably.

Sticking Kasparaitis on Lemieux and Jagr seemed like inspired strategy by Islanders Coach Al Arbour, but Kasparaitis, then in his first NHL season, said he didn't enter the series with that in mind.

"It just happened automatically," he said. "I remember that in Game 3 or Game 4, I got hit in the face with a high stick. There was no penalty and I went inside and got stitched up and came back and then I got cross-checked from the back by Mario, and then I went nuts.

"I started hitting everybody. I didn't care who it was. Mario, Yags. I remember hitting Mario, then I hit Yags with an open-ice hit at the end of the third period. I remember him lying down, and the people of Long Island going crazy."

Kasparaitis, quite properly, credited Islanders goaltender Glenn Healy with making New York's victory possible, and he still hasn't forgotten how the Penguins rallied from a two-goal deficit in the waning minutes of Game 7 to force overtime.

But he also remembers who won four of the seven games, even if he can't really explain how.

"We played game by game, and the miracle happened," Kasparaitis said. "We won."

The Penguins' perspective, of course, is a bit different. They remember New York bringing their reign to an abrupt end, even though economics were about to do the same.

"I think the end was coming, with the way salaries were going. I don't think Howard [Baldwin, then the team's owner] would have been able to keep that team together for another year or two," Lemieux said.

"The end was coming for that team, but it would have been nice to win three in a row."

Back to top Back to top E-mail this story E-mail this story
Search | Contact Us |  Site Map | Terms of Use |  Privacy Policy |  Advertise | Help |  Corrections