It was a rematch a year in the making as Sidney Crosby's Pens lifted the Stanley Cup Friday night. But the real winner in this Stanley Cup finals series were the fans, what with big-name stars, goalies at the top of their game and a Game 7 that will be remembered for years to come. Here are a few more moments we can't forget from this year's NHL playoffs.--Jenny Reisinger Cohen
Blue Jackets make the playoffs
OK, the Blue Jackets were swept by the eventual Western Conference champions, but just the fact that they made it to the playoffs says something. Here was a team that never made the postseason in its history until this year. And with young players like Rick Nash and rookie of the year candidate Steve Mason, expect to see this team back in contention next season.
Max Talbot vs. Daniel Carcillo
Talbot dropped the gloves to challenge Carcillo in Game 6 between the Penguins and Flyers and ended up on the losing side of the battle. But his willingness to get scrappy changed the feel of the game and perhaps the Pens' playoff run. "I think Max really changed the momentum with that," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said at the time. "He fought a tough customer, he took it upon himself, and right after that we get the goal. I think that started us going."
Niklas Kronwall hits Martin Havlat
The NHL had to deal with the issue of hits to the head this season, and the controversy got worse after Niklas Kronwall's hit on Martin Havlat in the Western Conference finals. The refs gave Kronwall a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct, but was it warranted? The blow knocked Havlat out cold, but some hockey faithful believed it to be a clean hit that the refs got wrong.
Aaron Ward vs. Scott Walker
Was it a fight, as Carolina's Scott Walker contended, or did he sucker-punch Boston's Aaron Ward? The NHL sided with Walker, fining him only $2,500 for the punch and letting him off without a suspension. But Ward called Walker's "a convenient story that the NHL accepted." In the end, the Bruins went home two games later, the 'Canes moved on, and the seed was planted for a budding feud between these Eastern Conference rivals.
Original Six in the Western finals
This playoff season saw five of the Original Six teams make the playoffs (sorry, Maple Leafs fans), but only two made it all the way to the conference finals. Sure, the battle between the Red Wings and Blackhawks was a bit anti-climactic with the Wings moving on in five games, but it was just another sign during the season that this once-great rivalry may be coming back to its glory days.
Ducks upset Sharks in first round
At the beginning of the season, fans and pundits were favoring the Sharks to win it all this year. So what happened? Let's start with the Ducks, who ousted favored San Jose in the first round. Yes, the no. 8 seed in the Western Conference eliminated the team that was expected to take it all. If you struggle with and ultimately lose to the worst team in your playoff division, you probably shouldn't be anywhere near the Cup.
Return of the Blackhawks
When was the last time an owner got a standing ovation? That's exactly what happened to Rocky Wirtz when he dropped the puck in Chicago in the Western Conference finals. After the team floundered for years, Wirtz revived the Blackhawks, getting them deep into the playoffs before they were eliminated by the 2008 Stanley Cup champions. Not bad for a young team that hadn't been in the playoffs since a quick exit in 2002.
John Tortorella vs. a fan
One of the more intruguing battles during the playoffs actually happened off the ice between Rangers coach John Tortorella and a fan in Washington. The fan, who allegedly was verbally abusive to the coach, got a face full of water before Tortorella tossed the bottle in his direction. The coach was suspended for a game and later described it as a "bad mistake by me."
Capitals vs. Penguins
Weeks before the Stanley Cup finals started, fans were treated to one of the best match-ups in the playoffs: Sidney Crosby's Penguins against Alex Ovechkin's Capitals. In the end, it took seven hard-fought games for the Pens to move on, but the series lived up to the hype, including a hat trick from each of the NHL's two biggest stars.