Unlikely Pittsburgh Penguins Playoff Heroes

Pittsburgh Penguins Playoffs
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Post-season heroes come in all forms from the star player to the unknown fourth-liner. We all know the exploits of the great playoff performers. However, we hardly hear about the unlikely playoff heroes. These unlikely post-season stars can contribute in many ways. Contributions could be for an entire playoff run, a series, a game, or even a goal. These unlikely heroes have made big plays that no one expects. This series looks at all of these unknown stars. These are the unlikely Pittsburgh Penguins playoff heroes.

Pittsburgh Penguins Playoff Heroes

Frank Pietrangelo

Before the Moment

Frank Pietrangelo was drafted by the Penguins in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft but didn’t make his NHL debut until the 1987-88 season. He was Tom Barrasso‘s backup his entire tenure with the Penguins and only started in 82 games for Pittsburgh before his big moment. His best save percentage during that time was .890 and that came in the 1988-89 season.

The Moment

With the Penguins facing elimination in Game 6 of their first-round series against the New Jersey Devils in 1991, Pietrangelo had to come in for the injured Barrasso. It was his first career playoff start and the team was protecting a one-goal lead with New Jersey pouring it on. During the game, he made what was simply known as “The Save” in Pittsburgh. He robbed Peter Stastny of a sure goal with an outstanding glove save which ended up being the difference in the game. Pittsburgh not only won that game, but they won the series against the Devils before winning the Stanley Cup against the Minnesota North Stars.

The Aftermath

Pietrangelo ended up being traded to the Hartford Whalers during the 1991-92 season and then played there until the 1993-1994 season. He played in 30 games for the Whalers during the 1992-93 season and had a lowly save percentage of .858. Despite not playing much for the Penguins after their first cup run, Pietrangelo’s save will always be remembered by Penguins fans when thinking about that championship.

Maxime Talbot

Before the Moment

Maxime Talbot was drafted by the Penguins in the 2002 NHL Draft and made his debut during the 2005-2006 season. He scored five goals and had eight total points in 48 games. His first full-time season came in the following year and he had 13 goals and 24 points in 75 games. Talbot’s best season before he would have his moment came in 2007-08 when he had 26 points in 72 games. He also had three goals and nine points in 17 playoff games for Pittsburgh that year.

The Moment

With the Penguins one win away from a Stanley Cup Championship in 2009, Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings was tied going into the second period. It was in that period that Talbot made his mark as he scored two goals, the second of which was the championship-clinching one. He beat goaltender Chris Osgood glove side on a two-on-one coming down the left side halfway into the period to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead:

Even a huge surge in the third period by the Red Wings wasn’t going to take this moment away from Talbot.

The Aftermath

Talbot played in Pittsburgh for a couple more seasons before bouncing around the league. He played for the Flyers, Avalanche, and Bruins after he left Pittsburgh. His best season during that time came in 2011-12 when he had 19 goals and 34 points in 81 games with Philadelphia. After he was done playing in the NHL, he went to the KHL for a couple of years before retiring in 2019.

Nick Bonino

Before the Moment

Nick Bonino was originally drafted by the San Jose Sharks but never played for them. He instead made his NHL debut as an Anaheim Duck in 2009-10. He ended up playing there for five years before going to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Ryan Kesler before the 2014-15 season. His best season in that timeframe was in 2013-14 with the Ducks when he had 23 goals and 49 points in 77 games. During the 2015 offseason, he was traded to the Penguins in exchange for Brandon Sutter and a third-round pick.

The Moment

In the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Bonino had quite a few clutch moments for the Penguins. They were moments that not many people saw coming, especially after his nine-goal 29 point campaign in the regular season. Bonino scored the series clincher against the Washington Capitals in overtime of Game 6 to send the Penguins to the Eastern Conference Final. It ended up being the call heard around hockey on Hockey Night Punjabi with Harnarayan Singh on the call for it.

Bonino also scored the game-winner in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Sharks. It came with just a few minutes remaining in the third period. Overall for the playoffs, he had four goals and 18 points in 24 games and was a huge part of the famous HBK line (Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel). Pittsburgh doesn’t win the Stanley Cup that year without those two huge goals and countless other plays from him.

The Aftermath

Bonino stuck around with the Penguins for the next Stanley Cup run in 2017 and had 18 goals and 37 points during the regular season. He also had four goals and seven points in the playoffs before departing via free agency. He ended up signing a four-year deal with the Nashville Predators but only played for three years due to a trade. The trade involved sending Bonino to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Luke Kunin.

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