Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist….one was the first pick in the 2005 NHL entry draft, the other….the very last one. Both however have been instrumental in the Penguins now back-to-back Stanley Cup Championship runs.
Last night it was Hornqvist who scored the Cup clinching goal with 1:35 remaining as he banked a puck off of Pekka Rinne’s elbow and in to set off a wild celebration on the bench. This should at least put to bed for a while of the ‘who won the Hornqvist for Neal trade’ crowd.
One minute and twenty one seconds later, Carl Hagelin outraced the Nashville defense through the neutral zone to collect a loose puck before aggressively slamming it into a wide open net with Rinne pulled for an extra attacker.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 12, 2017
The clock would soon tick down to all zeroes and the Penguins would rush the ice to dog pile on Matt Murray and begin their fifth such celebration in franchise history. The same Matt Murray who everyone wanted pulled after Game 4 in Nashville is now the same Matt Murray to post back to back shutouts in Games 5 and 6. Murray is also now the first goaltender to win back to back Cups to start his career.
The same can be said for Mike Sullivan.
So now a team that many didn’t believe would get through Columbus in the first round, and most certainly Washington in the second, is now planning another parade as they have become the first back-to-back champions since the Red Wings did it in ’97 and ’98.
The Penguins also continued their tradition of winning the Cup on the road. Five for five in that department.
Crosby was again picked as Conn Smythe winner as he became the first player to win THAT trophy in consecutive years since Mario did it in 1991 and ’92. Add this to winning the Rocket Richard trophy, the World Cup of Hockey before the season and being the Capitan of the last two Cup winning teams. He’s done all right, I suppose.
Both Murray and Rinne played outstanding games as both teams brought their ‘A’ game in Game Six with the Cup in the building. Both keepers made 27 saves during the game, problem is for Rinne, he faced 28 shots, to Murray’s 27.
Murray stopped a breakaway in the second period with his glove and left blocker extended as much as he could.
The loss on home ice was only the second in the post-season for Nashville.
Early in the second period, Nashville had scored what appeared to be the first goal of the game when Colton Sissions pickle-stabbed the puck over the goal line after following up a rebound from a Filip Forsberg shot.
The ref on the near side of the ice, Kevin Pollock, lost sight of the puck as Murray held his arm and glove still after making the first save, giving the impression he had squeezed the puck in his equipment. Also Trevor Daley and Forsberg impeded the sight of the loose puck as they skated behind the net and in the refs way.
SHOULD Pollock have deferred the whistle to another one on the open side of play, yes. But a play that happens a dozen or so times, league-wide during the season just happened to occur in a huge moment in a Stanley Cup Finals series. Maybe a bit of poetic justice for Sissions who cross-checked Olli Maatta in the face during Game Five and received a match penalty.
The game remained scoreless but the referees would do all they could to try to make the call up to Nashville. Ignoring interference and trips made on Pittsburgh players that were called in reverse. Also giving Nashville a two man advantage during the opening ten minutes of the third. the Predators had numerous chances to make up for the call. The fact of the matter is, they didn’t capitalize or get the job done.
Instead now it is Pittsburgh who concludes their 50th season as a franchise with a Cup. Let the debate begin on the two greatest eras in Pittsburgh hockey history. The Lemieux era that brought the franchise their first two in ’91 and ’92 and arguably the best team ever in ’93. Or the Crosby/Malkin era that has three Cups, four Finals appearances and still has the time and supporting talent around them to keep going.
If you side with Sid and company, it’s ok……Mario has three of the five as an owner too, so he won’t cry or lose much sleep.
Wonder if they’ll do a ‘back to back’ shirt like 66 and 68 did?
Crosby would take the Cup and after taking a lap with it, he would skate to Ron Hainsey as the second player to hold it on the night. Hainsey had never been in the playoffs before this season, and look at him now….more Cups than Alex Ovechkin. No….that never gets old either.
The celebration was not without some pause, however.
Marc Andre Fleury….he of nine of the sixteen wins in these playoffs took a lap with the Cup and then proudly skated over to Matt Murray and passed the torch, so to speak. It was an emotional moment for both players and may well be the last time we see the greatest Penguin goalie ever wearing the Penguin crest.
A very emotional Marc Andre Fleury just left the ice at Bridgestone. Tears of joy and perhaps, last time with his teammates.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 12, 2017
The expansion draft is fast approaching, and the long drawn out saga that started this time last year, figures to have some closure.
Also looming is Matt Cullen and his retirement. A strong hint came when Hainsey passed the Cup to Cullen as the third player to touch it. The 40 year old never lost a step this year and was a warrior with his speed and physicality.
Those two, along with others such as Daley, Chris Kunitz and others will have their career paths addressed in the coming days and months. For one last night all of those involved from Mario and his sweet suit, to Sid, and down the line to the front office execs had one more time to spray each other with bubbly and party deep in to the honky tonk night going out…..
For Mike Warren and I, again THANK YOU for another great year and for allowing us to bring you coverage of ANOTHER championship to the city of Pittsburgh. The offseason starts…..right about now and we’ll take a SLIGHT pause before continuing to keep you in the know.
Thanks for reading! And as we go, here is Mike Lange doing what he does….to carry us into the offseason.
Radio Sync'd Highlights: Pens WIN Back-To-Back Stanley Cups after a Game 6 WIN vs. Preds, w/ Mike Lange's radio calls. pic.twitter.com/xb6txvANO5
— Benstonium (@Benstonium) June 12, 2017