NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sidney Crosby is bringing the Stanley Cup back home to Pittsburgh to get another consecutive year. He is bringing another MVP trophy, too.
Patric Hornqvist scored with 1:35 left and Matt Murray made 27 saves for his second straight shutout as the Penguins became the first group in two decades to repeat as champion with a 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 6 on Sunday night.
The Penguins won their fifth title — most of these clinched on the street — 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 title. The Penguins would be the very first to do it at the era.
“We knew that it was going to be tough all year, but we only tried to stay with it,” Crosby said. “We had a great deal of injuries and things like that. We just kept finding ways. This was really what we did all year long, all playoffs. It is great to have the ability to do it.”
Crosby also became only 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 headed the Closing in scoring with one goal and six assists, including three at a 6-0 win in Game 5 which place the Penguins on the doorstep of some other title. Only teammate Evgeni Malkin (28 points) had over Crosby’s 27 this postseason.
“You get a small window to perform and have a career,” Crosby said. “I feel fortunate, but I also know how difficult it had been you just wish to attempt and make the best of it”
Hornqvist scored off Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne’s left elbow, the prior Predator silencing the raucous audience that had stood for long minutes and flung a couple more catfish, also. Nashville contested for goalie interference, however, the target was upheld. With Pekka Rinne pulled for an excess attacker, Carl Hagelin put off a bench party with an empty netter with 13.6 seconds left.
“Obviously, it is likely to be the biggest goal I’m ever going to score,” Hornqvist explained. “That’s going to stand really near my heart.”
All that was left was that the celebrating. Crosby took the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman before handing off the trophy to veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey who handed it to veteran forward Matt Cullen.
Nashville lost for only the first time in regulation on home ice this postseason and this one had a tough luck. Colton Sissons had a target erased by a whistle 67 minutes into the next period. The Predators went 0 of 4 with the man advantage, for example 32 minutes of a 5-on-3 at the third.
“It stings,” said defenseman P.K. Subban, brought over in a trade stunner in the offseason and a transparency for Crosby all series. “I believe the biggest thing we’ve got to take from this is, don’t forget the feeling. That’s what’s going to drive . …. We’re going to be back here again next year.”
Forget a gold anniversary: The Penguins will cap their 50th season with their names on the most famous silver cup in sport . It’s also the third tournament for Crosby and a small number of teammates from the 2009 name team, surpassing the two won from the Penguins teams led by present owner Mario Lemieux from the 1990s.
And it is the second championship in 18 weeks for coach Mike Sullivan, who has yet to lose a playoff series since taking over after Mike Johnston has been terminated. Sullivan is your first American-born coach to win the Cup not once, but twice.
“It’s been an wonderful year from the beginning, trying to repeat,” Lemieux said. “A lot of these men played in the playoffs and revealed a lot of character. Obviously, Sid being the best player on earth again and again winning the Conn Smythe. He was our leader and picked up the group 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 label removed. That’s something Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden or Cam Ward ever handled, but the 23-year-old Murray finished this Final shutting out Nashville to the final 146:52. He set a rookie record with two shutouts at the Final.
“What an adventure,” he said. “It will not get any better”
The loss ended the upstart Predators’ deepest playoff run within their 19-year background and one which became the talk of the town — and the league.
Having won just three of 12 playoff series earlier 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 show since the current playoff format was introduced in 1994. Nashville went through St. Louis and Anaheim into the Final, where only captain Mike Fisher about the roster had ever played .
The stingy Predators found Pittsburgh was up to the task, with the Penguins taking the first two games at home ice. Nashville roared back at home to even up things, however, the Penguins hauled Nashville to install Game 6.
The Penguins destroyed Nashville’s big party on the last night of CMA Music Festival, which attracted over 100,000 to downtown Nashville. Country celebrity Luke Bryan serenaded fans out of the rooftop of a honky-tonk in a performance that kicked off the television broadcast, and he also staged a four-song set for fans inside and outside the stadium an hour before face-off.
Faith Hill became the latest to sing the national anthem together with husband, star Tim McGraw, giving her a hug once finished before waving a towel in each hand. At least five catfish struck the ice prior to the face-off.
Then a series that had not featured even a single one-goal match went scoreless during the first 58 minutes. The Predators thought they had the first goal of the game, just as they did in Game 1 at Pittsburgh, only to have referee Kevin Pollock wave off it immediately. He’d 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 into the net 67 seconds into the second time 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 out of Viktor Arvidsson afterwards in the interval. The Penguins also murdered off 32 seconds of a 5-on-3 at 8:47 of the third after Trevor Daley hit Ryan Ellis with Olli Maatta currently in the box for tripping. Murray made a big stop on a shot by Mattias Ekholm followed with a save on Arvidsson.
“We never gave up,” Fisher said. “We lost a great deal of guys to injuries. Sixteen seed. Nobody gave us a chance against anyone and here we are in Game 6. Things didn’t go our way, but that happens. That is sport. Like I said, this group never gave up. We thought all the way”
This tournament season for the Penguins lacked some of the drama from one year before, but it was far from a slam dunk. Washington won the President’s Trophy for a second straight season and pushed Pittsburgh to seven games in the next round. Ottawa did the exact same thing, forcing the Penguins to double overtime to clinch the Eastern Conference title.
Crosby, Malkin and others also played in the World Cup of Hockey before the season, which makes this an even longer year than normal. In the long run, the Penguins had more than enough in the tank to bring home another title.
“We’ve got a collection of guys who know what is needed to acquire,” Crosby said.
Lemieux won the Conn Smythe in 1992 and 1992, and Bernie Parent was the first to win the MVP trophy in consecutive years in 1974 and 1975. … Murray is the primary 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 games. … Grammy winners Cage that the Elephant performed through the next intermission after playing at Bonnaroo on Friday night.
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