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Penguins earn another crack at the Cup

Corey Masisak The Washington Times 26.05.2009 21:11
Penguins earn another crack at the Cup - Pittsburgh Penguins - Hockey

The Pittsburgh Penguins fulfilled their half of the requirement Tuesday night by dismissing the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 at sold-out RBC Center, completing a four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference finals and earning a second straight trip to the championship round.

"We feel like this group in this dressing room still has a lot to prove yet," said Penguins forward Matt Cooke, who signed with Pittsburgh after finishing last season with the Washington Capitals. "Yeah, we're back in the Stanley Cup Finals, but we're not done. We have a lot to accomplish yet."

Detroit has three chances against the Chicago Blackhawks to return to the finals, the first coming Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena. It would be the first rematch since the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders clashed in 1983 and 1984 and only the fourth since the league expanded from the "Original Six" teams in 1967.

The victory completed an improbable turnaround for the Penguins, who were languishing in 10th place in the Eastern Conference when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien as coach Feb. 15. The Penguins are the first franchise to make back-to-back trips to the Cup finals with different coaches since Pittsburgh did so in 1991 with Bob Johnson and in 1992 with Scotty Bowman.

"We knew we were a better team than we were showing through December and January, and everyone was at a loss," Cooke said. "With the coaching change, we instantly got confidence and started playing the right way."