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Best Players Stepping Up, Timely Saves, Winning Small Battles forces a Game 7

Penguins force a Game 7

The series shifts back to Pittsburgh.

Everything just about went right for the Penguins in a 5-2 Game 6 win to tie the best-of-seven series at 3-3.

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The stars stepped up with goals from Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, the Penguins played suffocating defense for the first forty minutes in limiting the Lightning to four shots on goal in the first period, 11 shots through two periods, and most importantly in an elimination game, the Penguins had some luck on their side in the first period.

Among them:

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*A Jonathan Drouin goal was called offside with his foot up in the air.

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*The Penguins were then able to kill off a terrible retaliation penalty from Evgeni Malkin.

*Later in the period Victor Hedman got a delay-of-game penalty with the Penguins already on the power play by shooting the puck over the glass a 150 feet down the ice to give the Penguins a 5-on-3 power play and they capitalized with Phil Kessel batting a fluttering Sidney Crosby pass behind Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Where the Penguins won this game was in the first forty minutes and for the first time since Game 3, they were winning all three zones that started with the small battles.

In the third period, Pittsburgh went into a prevent defense, who knows why, and Tampa Bay not surprisingly stormed back. They got the game to 3-2 but Bryan Rust delivered a breakaway goal with 2:08 left in regulation and Nick Bonino comes back with an empty net goal to close it out.

After the Penguins allowed 11 shots through two periods, Tampa Bay fired 20 shots in period three, out-shooting Pittsburgh 20-8. The goal differential in the period, though, would be even ending with a 5-2 Penguins win. Tampa Bay had a 5 v 5 shot attempts advantage of 31-9 in the third period that shows how tilted the ice was.

What also played out in this one was lineup decisions paying off.

Conor Sheary after being a healthy scratch in Game 5, looked like the player from the Rangers series. He brought needed speed in pushing the Lightning back and picked up an assist on Kris Letang’s second period goal with a key zone entry.

The goaltending decision maybe the most important of all. The Penguins didn’t need Matt Murray to be great but he made some great side-to-side saves late in the second and in the third period where he came up huge despite the two goals against. The one goal against Phil Kessel deflected the puck into his own net and the other Matt Cullen bumped into Murray and got into his sight lines on a Brian Boyle shot.

The Lightning brought a ton of traffic in the third period and Murray was a calming presence, something Mike Sullivan talked about before the game. A .933 save percentage will get the job done.

The Penguins were previously 0-4 in their past four elimination games.

Sidney Crosby had one point in the Penguins past five elimination games. He comes out tonight with a great individual goal late in the second to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead, his third game winning goal of the series, and had a primary assist on Phil Kessel’s opening goal of the game.

The Penguins did a lot of the little things well and Pittsburgh’s best players stepped up when the heat was on.

Pittsburgh played like a team has to when facing elimination and delivered. Now the pressure turns back on them to finish the job at home.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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