A Game 7 is a tense affair by it’s nature, and Thursday’s finale between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning lived up to the billing.
When the dust settled after 60 minutes of tenuous play, the Penguins earned a 2-1 win and a date with the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final.
Here’s who stood out to us:
Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins
Let's just start calling him “Big Game.” Rust scored both goals in the Game 7 thriller, marking the second time this spring that the rookie has starred in an elimination contest. Rust also had two goals and an assist to lead the Pens to a 6-3 victory in a clinching Game 5 win over the Rangers.
He now has five goals on the postseason, although it seemed like he could have had that many in this game alone. Rust finished the night with five shots and seven attempts, including three glorious third period chances in an attempt to become the first rookie ever to complete the hat trick in a Game 7. He came up short on that end, but got the result that mattered.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
No goals and no assists doesn't begin to tell the story of how dialed in Crosby was for this one. This was Peak Sid. He led all skaters with six shots but it was his relentless pursuit of the puck that really defined his effort. He wound up with three official takeaways, more than the entire Lightning team, and set a tone that his teammates followed right to the final buzzer.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Tip your cap to one of the finest performances we've seen in these playoffs. I wrote before the game that Vasilevskiy had been good in this series but had yet to steal one for his team. He did everything in his power to do just that Thursday, making 37 saves to keep the Lightning from getting their doors blown off. Bolts fans might wonder if a different result could have been earned with starter Ben Bishop in net. After watching Vasilevskiy in this one, it's hard to imagine he could have done any better.