The Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the National Hockey League's most dominant teams of the early 1990s.
The resurgence of the modern Penguins can be traced back to June 9, 1984, when the last-place Penguins used the first overall pick of the NHL Entry Draft to select a 6-foot-4 forward from Montreal. Mario Lemieux was considered the best amateur player since Wayne Gretzky, and despite worries about joining the cellar-dwelling Penguins, he had a Hall of Fame career.
Lemieux's presence immediately ignited a renewed passion for hockey in Pittsburgh, and despite some subpar seasons in the mid-1980s, the organization began assembling a championship club. After a six-year playoff drought, the Penguins finally earned a playoff berth in 1989, reaching the Patrick Division finals before falling to their cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Although Lemieux missed 21 games due to a back injury the following season and the Penguins missed the playoffs, the team was poised for a long playoff run in the 1990-91 season. After trading for players such as defenseman Paul Coffey and goaltender Tom Barrasso and cultivating young homegrown talent such as forwards Kevin Stevens and Robbie Brown, the Penguins earned their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance against the Minnesota North Stars. The gritty and talented Penguins won the final three games of the series to earn the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
The following season, the Penguins rolled up 88 regular season points and the team added even more talent, including veterans Bryan Trottier, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy and Ron Francis. The Pens dispatched the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins in the playoffs to set up a Stanley Cup Final appearance against the Chicago Blackhawks. Led by Lemieux and his young protege Jaromir Jagr, the Penguins' explosive offense and stellar goaltending proved to be too much as the team swept the Blackhawks four games to none to earn their second straight Stanley Cup trophy.
Visitors to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center can learn more about the great players and moments in Penguins history. For more information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.