Penguins Back in the Cup Final

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Sidney Crosby accepted the Prince of Whales Trophy and quickly sent it off to the dressing room. The Penguins have a bigger trophy in mind over the next couple weeks.

It’s been longer than many expected but the Pittsburgh Penguins are back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009 with a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

From start to finish the Penguins were the superior team in Game 7 but unable to deliver a knockout punch, this one would go down to the wire.

Bryan Rust played the role of hero in scoring both Pittsburgh goals in the second period. In the third, he nearly brought the house down on a breakaway chance early in the period.

Rust who was sensational over the Penguins last three games of the series, played the game of his life. He was sniping shots like he was a 40 goal scorer, creating foot races and winning almost all of them and Tampa Bay struggled to contain his speed game.

The Penguins played an excellent checking game and it started with the likes of Rust.

The win, though, went well beyond just a great performance from Rust. Pittsburgh did what they had to do to win the last two games of the series by dominating defensively through the neutral zone in a great team effort. Tampa Bay had their moments but Pittsburgh held the Lightning to 17 shots and it started with winning the neutral zone again, something that plagued them in games 4 and 5.

“I thought tonight might have been the most complete 60-minute effort that we’ve had,” Mike Sullivan said of his group.

Tampa Bay needed a perfect shot to beat Matt Murray in this one and the only one they got past him was a great individual goal from Jonathan Drouin.

Any key in a Game 7 is how you handle adversity. Pittsburgh was in complete control of the game and Tampa as they did all series, got a huge goal from Drouin at 9:36 of the period. Thirty seconds later Rust scores his second of the game on a bad goal given up from Andrei Vasilevskiy who failed to cover the puck on the post.

2-1 game and Pittsburgh never lost a grip of the game.

For Murray he faced just 17 shots but what a pressure situation in the third for a 22 year old goalie. Nothing against in the third and a ‘Murray’ chant from the fans during the handshake line.

What the Penguins did was an excellent job of limiting second chances all game and not letting shots get through, something Lightning coach Jon Cooper marveled about afterwards.

“They play hard and one of the things they block a lot of shots,” Cooper said. “Amount of shot blocks incredible,” Cooper citing the Lightning being “one and done.”

While Rust had the multi-goal game, Evgeni Malkin picked up a multi-assist game with two helpers, while linemate Chris Kuntz extended his points streak to five games. Malkin also has a five game points streak. Have the Penguins found another go-to line?

Another series win for the Penguins, another coach raving about the Penguins speed.

“They’re fast….they’re right on you,” Cooper said of a reason the Lightning were outshot every game.

The Penguins may finally meet their match in the San José Sharks.

“Biggest challenge is ahead of us and we have a great opportunity,” Sidney Crosby said.

Going to be a highly entertaining series. Two teams with great speed and talent.

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