- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2009

Just for emphasis, Bill Guerin wanted to express that the Pittsburgh Penguins were just as surprised as everybody else inside Verizon Center that a sensational series ended with a stunning blowout.

“No, no, no, no - swear to God,” Guerin said of whether the 6-2 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 7 was what he anticipated. “We were expecting the same type of game.”

That type of game - one-goal contests, stars on both teams scoring, high drama - was what everybody expected and wanted from the finale.

What we got was the letdown of the postseason.

What Guerin, 38, got was his first trip to the conference finals in 14 years.



Brought to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline from the woeful New York Islanders, Guerin immediately clicked with center Sidney Crosby (12 points in final 17 regular-season games). His fifth goal of this postseason was the dagger for the Caps… and showed the reason he was acquired - as a veteran, he knows how to finish.

The New York Rangers built a 3-1 series lead over the Caps thanks to the play of individuals added before or at the trade deadline.

The Penguins sent the Caps home thanks a goal apiece by Guerin and Craig Adams, both of whom were acquired to shake up a floundering offense.

After the first period, despite a 16-5 advantage in shots and 2-0 lead, the Penguins knew the next goal was vital. If the Caps scored, the crowd would be back in the game; if the Penguins scored, a three-goal margin would be nearly insurmountable.

One Guerin slap shot sapped the energy out of the arena.

Crosby glided into the Caps zone down the left side. Instead of barreling toward the goal or firing a shot from the circle, he slid a pass to Guerin’s whose one-timer from 49 feet beat Simeon Varlamov 28 seconds into the period.

Game and season over the Caps.

“[Crosby] made a great play - he put it on a platter for me,” Guerin said. “It wasn’t Varlamov’s best night, but the kid played tremendous in this series. The thing is, once you get down two and then you get down three, it’s tough and it’s deflating.”

Said Adams: “The quick goal to start the second period was the big one.”

A veteran of 1,186 regular-season games, Guerin is a classic example of a move that pays off even if it’s a short-term rental. It was the kind of move made by Boston, which acquired Mark Recchi.

The Caps opted to not alter their roster at the deadline, figuring the dealing of prospects and/or picks might do short-term good but long-term harm.

But Guerin cost the Penguins only a third-round pick and only $968,000 on the salary cap. Hard to believe, finding a winger for Crosby developed into a need because so many other combinations failed to work.

Last year, Pascal Dupuis and Marian Hossa were acquired at the deadline to work with Crosby.

This year, Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Max Talbot and Evgeni Malkin all had opportunities to capitalize on playing with one of the league’s premier playmakers. Nothing really worked. Coach Michel Thierren was fired, and the Penguins, conference champions last year, were out of playoff position.

A week before the Guerin trade, the Penguins traded for Chris Kunitz from Anaheim. The new line has stayed intact since Guerin’s arrival.

“I didn’t know Billy before he got here, but he’s a guy that loves the game and more than anything wants another chance to win a Cup,” Adams said. “For him, he felt rejuvenated and getting to play with a couple pretty good players.”

While Crosby was appearing in his first Game 7, Guerin won for the third time as a Game 7 road team. He was with Edmonton in 1997 and 1998 when the Oilers upset Dallas and Colorado.

“I don’t care how many Game 7s you’ve been in, they’re still nerve-racking,” he said. “You’re on edge going in. We had some guys on a pretty big stage for the first time in a Game 7. They really handled themselves well.”

Including the guy with specks of gray in his playoff beard.

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