NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sidney Crosby is bringing the Stanley Cup back home to Pittsburgh to get a second consecutive year. He’s bringing another MVP trophy, also.
Patric Hornqvist played 1:35 left and Matt Murray made 27 saves for his second straight shutout as the Penguins became the first group in nearly two decades to repeat as winner with a 2-0 triumph over the Nashville Predators in Game 6 on Sunday night.
The Penguins won their fifth name — most of these clinched on the road — to tie the Wayne Gretzky-Mark Messier-era Edmonton Oilers for sixth on the all-time list. The Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and’98 were the last winner to defend their name. The Penguins are the very first to do it.
“We knew that it was going to be tough all year, but we just tried to keep with it,” Crosby said. “We had a great deal of accidents and things like this. We just kept finding ways. That was really what we did all year long, all of playoffs. It is great to have the ability to perform it.”
Crosby also became just the third player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in consecutive years since the Stanley Cup MVP to go together with his third tournament. He led the Closing in scoring with one goal and six assists, including three at a 6-0 win in Game 5 which put the Penguins on the doorstep of another title. Just teammate Evgeni Malkin (28 points) had over Crosby’s 27 this postseason.
“You get a little window to play and have a career,” Crosby said. “I feel blessed, but I also know how difficult it was so you only want to attempt to create the best of it.”
Hornqvist scored off Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne’s left elbow, the former Predator silencing the raucous audience that had stood for long moments and flung a few more catfish, also. Nashville contested for goalie interference, however, the target was upheld. Together with Pekka Rinne pulled for an extra attacker, Carl Hagelin put off a bench celebration with an empty netter with 13.6 seconds left.
“Obviously, it’s likely to be the biggest goal I am going to score,” Hornqvist explained. “That is going to stand very close to my heart.”
All that was left was the celebrating. Crosby took the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman before committing the trophy off to veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey who handed it to veteran forward Matt Cullen.
Nashville lost for just the first time in law on home ice this postseason and this one had a hard luck. Colton Sissons needed a goal erased by a whistle 67 minutes into the second period. The Predators went 0 of 4 with the man advantage, including 32 minutes of a 5-on-3 at the third.
“It stings,” said defenseman P.K. Subban, brought over in a trade stunner from the offseason along with a foil for Crosby all sequence. “I believe the biggest thing we’ve got to choose from this is, don’t forget the feeling. That is what’s going to drive us. …. We’re going to be back again next year.”
Forget a golden anniversary: The Penguins will cap their 50th season with their titles on the most famous silver cup in sports . It is also the third championship for Crosby and a small number of teammates from the 2009 title team, surpassing both won from the Penguins teams led by present owner Mario Lemieux from the 1990s.
And it is the next championship in 18 weeks for coach Mike Sullivan, who’s yet to eliminate a playoff series since taking over after Mike Johnston has been terminated. Sullivan is the first American-born coach to win the Cup not once, but twice.
“It has been an wonderful year from the start, trying to repeat,” Lemieux said. “A lot of these men played injured in the playoffs and showed a lot of character. Of course, Sid being the best player on earth again and winning the Conn Smythe. He was our chief and picked up the team once we needed it”
Murray became the first goalie to win not one, but two Stanley Cups as a rookie after being a late-season call up a year ago who didn’t play enough games to get that tag eliminated. That is something Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden or Cam Ward ever handled, but the 23-year-old Murray completed this Final shutting out Nashville to its last 146:52. He set a rookie record with two shutouts in the Final.
“What an experience,” he said. “It will not get any better.”
The loss ended the upstart Predators’ deepest playoff series in their 19-year background and one which became the talk of the town — and the league.
Having won just three of 12 playoff series before this calendar year, Nashville opened this postseason by eliminating the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in four matches. In doing this, the Predators became the primary eighth-seeded team to sweep a first-round series since the current playoff format was first introduced in 1994. Nashville went through St. Louis and then Anaheim to the Final, where only captain Mike Fisher on the roster had ever played .
The stingy Predators discovered Pittsburgh was up to the job, together with the Penguins carrying the first two games at home ice. Nashville roared back in your home to even up things, however, the Penguins hauled Nashville to set up Game 6.
The Penguins ruined Nashville’s large party on the last night of CMA Music Festival, which brought over 100,000 to downtown Nashville. Country celebrity Luke Bryan serenaded fans from the rooftop of a honky-tonk in a performance that kicked off the tv broadcast, and he also staged a four-song set for lovers inside and outside the stadium an hour before face-off.
Faith Hill became the latest to sing the national anthem with husband, star Tim McGraw, giving her a hug once completed before waving a towel in each hand. At least five catfish hit the ice prior to the face-off.
Then a series that had not featured even a single one-goal game went scoreless through the first 58 minutes. The Predators thought they had the primary aim of the match, just as they did in Game 1 at Pittsburgh, simply to have referee Kevin Pollock tide off it instantly. He had whistled the play dead when he lost sight of the puck with Murray about the ice between him and the puck.
Sissons tapped the puck to the web 67 seconds into the second period behind Murray’s back. Officials huddled, however, the goal wasn’t allowed.
Murray also ceased Sissons on a breakaway midway through the second and also gloved a shot from Viktor Arvidsson later in the period. The Penguins also killed off 32 seconds of a 5-on-3 at 8:47 of the next after Trevor Daley hit Ryan Ellis with Olli Maatta already in the box for tripping. Murray made a big stop on a shot by Mattias Ekholm followed with a rescue on Arvidsson.
“We never gave up,” Fisher said. “We dropped a lot of guys to injuries. Sixteen seed. No one gave us a chance against anyone and here we are in Game 6. Things did not go our way, but that occurs. That’s sport. As I said, this team never gave up. We believed all the way”
This tournament season for the Penguins lacked some of the drama from one year before, but it had been far from a slam dunk. Washington won the President’s Trophy for a second straight season and pushed Pittsburgh to seven matches in the second round. Ottawa did the exact same thing, forcing the Penguins to double overtime to clinch the Eastern Conference title.
Crosby, Malkin and others played at the World Cup of Hockey before the season, making this an even longer year than normal. In the end, the Penguins had more than enough in the tank to bring home another name.
“We’ve got a selection of men who understand what is needed to acquire,” Crosby said.
Lemieux won the Conn Smythe in 1992 and 1992, and Bernie Parent was the very first to win the MVP trophy in consecutive years in 1974 and 1975. … Murray is the first goalie with 2 shutouts in one Cup Final since Boston’s Tim Thomas and Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo had two apiece in 2011. … Nashville finished the series going 0 on the power play over the final two matches. … Grammy winners Cage that the Elephant performed through the next intermission after playing Bonnaroo on Friday night.
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