The Pittsburgh Penguins are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. Patric Hornqvist's late goal in the third period broke 0-0 score in Game 6 on Sunday and an empty-net goal moments later provided padding in a 2-0 road victory against against the Nashville Predators.
After a goalless opening period—the only 0-0 first period in this year's Cup Final—the Predators appeared to have taken a 1-0 lead just 67 seconds into Game 6's second stanza. However, appearances can be deceiving. Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray made an initial save on a shot from Filip Forsberg, but couldn't corral the puck and it skittered past him into the blue painted area in front of the goal mouth. Lunging forward, Colton Sissons was able to get his stick on the it and tap it home into the goal. Except, it wasn't a goal. Referee Kevin Pollock, stationed below the goal line, lost sight of the puck and whistled the play dead. The rest of the period went on to play out just like the first, resulting in a 0-0 score through 40 minutes of action.
Entering the third period, Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne had stopped 71 of the last 72 shots he had faced at home. On the other side of the rink, Murray was sporting a 56-save streak that dated back to the third period of Game 4 of the series. Something eventually had to give.
It finally did with 1:35 left in regulation. Justin Schultz sent a shot toward Nashville's net from near the blue line, but the puck went just wide right and ricocheted off the end board toward Hornqvist who was near the side of the net. Hornqvist collected the loose puck and banked it from behind the goal line off Rinne and into the back of the net to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 edge. Nashville challenged the ruling, hoping for a goalie interference call that would wipe the scoreboard clean, but didn't end up getting one. Carl Hagelin's empty-netter with 14 seconds on the clock was the final nail in Nashville's Stanley Cup coffin.
The Penguins are now back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. They're the first team to accomplish the feat not only in the salary cap era, but in the last 19 years. The last team to repeat was the Detroit Red Wings who backed up a Cup in 1997 with another in 1998. The Cup is Pittsburgh's fifth, tying them them with the Edmonton Oilers for the most in NHL history among non-Original Six franchises.
Sidney Crosby left Bridgestone Arena Sunday night as the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, the award that goes to the league's postseason MVP. He also won it last season after the Penguins topped the San Jose Sharks.
Highlight of the Night, Part I
Hornqvist's bank shot will be one Penguins fans won't soon forget.
Highlight of the Night, Part I
Sissons darted toward the net, went backhand to forehand, but Murray stopped him dead in his tracks to keep Nashville off the scoreboard.
Stat of the Night
Mike Sullivan joined Toe Blake (Montreal Canadiens, 1956 and 1957) as the only two NHL head coaches to ever win back-to-back Stanley Cups during their first two seasons behind the bench with a team.
3. Carl Hagelin (PIT) Hagelin turned off the lights on Nashville's season with an empty-net insurance goal to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead Sunday. It was Hagelin's second goal of the 2017 postseason, snapping a 10-game postseason stretch in which he didn't register a point.
2. Patric Hornqvist (PIT) Hornqvist's fifth goal of the 2017 playoffs clinched the Cup for the Penguins. His goal at 18:25 in the third period Sunday was the second-latest Cup-clinching tally in NHL history. Only Dave Bolland's at 19:01 in 2013 for the Chicago Blackhawks was scored later.
1. Matt Murray (PIT) Murray stopped all 27 shots he faced in Game 6. It was the 23-year-old's third career postseason shutout—all of which have come during the 2017 playoffs.