You really want to know why the Penguins failed to win their third consecutive Stanley Cup in 1993? A little team that could called the New York Islanders had something to do with it, sure. But they ran into the Islanders because the hockey gods -- as the Islanders later learned -- frown upon frivolous uniform changes.
Despite winning two Cups with their classic logo, Pittsburgh went "mean Penguin" in 1993 and, well, they didn't sniff the Cup finals again until after they'd gone back to that lovable skating fowl with the vintage gloves. That the Penguins' '90s plummet toward bankruptcy paralleled the life of the mean Penguin is a lesson for all franchises that dicker with their uniform scheme for a cheap buck.
May 12, 1993: Of all the crazy playoff series I've watched as a hockey fan, none that truly held my emotional investment were so up-and-down -- with so stunning an (happy) ending -- as the Islanders' seven-game upset of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins in 1993.
It wasn't just that the whole series was a roller coaster -- every freaking period ripped your heart out, threw it on the floor, stomped on it, and then maybe patched it up again. If Game 7's late tying goal by Ron Francis nearly killed me, the entirety of the Game 6 experience put me in the I.C.U. No lead was safe against that team, so you just hoped Ray and the boys could keep scoring until the clock ran down.
The Islanders entered Game 6 on May 12 needing a win at home just to extend the series to what would surely be an impossible Game 7 in Pittsburgh. (That was the thing about this series: The whole time, the defending champs had that look of a too-comfortable team that thought, "Okay, we've been through this before, don't panic, that was a close call, but soon we're really going to have to take this seriously." Until time -- and a Dave Volek one-timer -- ran away from them.)
In a good omen, Brad Dalgarno opened Game 6 scoring by banging in a rebound just 25 seconds in. In a sign of just how crazy this series was -- and how scarily explosive those Pens were -- Martin Straka (oh, is he okay on your 2nd/3rd line?) immediately evened it up. The ride didn't stop until Glenn Healy had "backstopped" a 7-5 victory.
Crazy Darius Kasparaitis famously terrorized Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in this series, but never more so than in this game, doing things that wouldn't be allowed today and shouldn't have been allowed then. If junk like the Devils' era of clutch-and-trap hockey chased Lemieux from his playing career, Kasparaitis had an assist. Some shameless stuff, really -- but it's what passed for playoff hockey back then, so you did what you could get away with. Particularly when the alternative was being destroyed by a team of Hall of Famers. Ironically, Kasparaitis would be Lemieux's lovably hatable Pens teammate both the year he retired and the year Lemieux came back out of retirement to help save the franchise (again).
So Game 6 entered the third period tied 4-4, of course. Nothing was ever easy, and no one breathed easily until Uwe Krupp slid an empty-netter in to make it 7-5 with just 18 seconds left. But looking back through the highlights, Steve Thomas' game-winner, which made it 6-4, feels representative of half the big Islanders goals in that series: A two-on-one that builds up your hope and anticipation ... the pass, and -- bam, I'll be damned, they did it again.
Of course it was Ray Ferraro -- who scored his "first short-handed goal since juniors" in the Game 1 upset that set the tone -- gliding down the wing to set Thomas up on this one. As with the Volek goal that dethroned the Penguins in Game 7, Ferraro was everywhere in this Pierre Turgeon-less series, setting up big goals and making things happen ... somehow taking down a team that had Lemieux, Jagr, Francis, Larry Murphy, Rick Tocchet, Joey Mullen, Straka -- I mean, seriously?
The 1993 Patrick Division final wasn't so much about beating Pittsburgh as it was about outlasting them before the sleeping giant awoke. The crazy Game 6, the only game the Islanders won by more than one goal, was just par for the course.
Have any memories or stories from that Game 6 -- or the whole 1993 Patrick Division final in general? Be you Isles fan, Pens fan or neutral, leave 'em in comments and share the wealth.