The Pittsburgh Penguins are Eastern Conference champions, and will attempt to become the first NHL team in 19 years to repeat as Stanley Cup champions after their Game 7 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.
Chris Kunitz’s change-up of a shot at 5 minutes and 9 seconds into the second overtime floated over the shoulder of goalie Craig Anderson and into the net, giving Pittsburgh the 3-2 victory. It was the first double-overtime Game 7 goal in the NHL since 1994.
“I just tried to find a soft area. It fluttered on net. And it found its way in,” said Kunitz of his game-winner, his second goal of the night.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is Monday night in Pittsburgh against the Nashville Predators.
Matt Murray made 27 saves for the win, and Craig Anderson made 39 saves.
The teams played a first period that have several moments of play with no stoppages, but little in the way of action, as they combined for 11 shots.
The Penguins struck first, as Chris Kunitz broke through at 9:55 of the second period with his first goal of the postseason.
That was Conor Sheary smartly tipping the puck away from Derick Brassard, springing Kunitz on the rush. And that was Sheary sending the puck back to Kuntiz for the shot on Anderson, as Brassard couldn’t catch him on the backcheck.
The Penguins were 10-2 in the playoffs when scoring first.
The arena was euphoric, but it was short-lived.
Mark Stone tied the game just 20 seconds later with this fifth of the postseason, thanks to a marvelous play from Ottawa’s playoff MVP Erik Karlsson.
That was a good high shot by Stone, beating Murray where he’s been vulnerable, but an even better pass from Karlsson to set it up.
The Penguins briefly mulled a coach’s challenge to see if Stone was offside, but play continued.
The rest of the second period was entertaining, and that carried over into the third. That’s where Phil Kessel earned an interference penalty against Dion Phaneuf for the Penguins’ first power play of the game – the Senators had earned two already – and Justin Schultz used a Kunitz screen to score the go-ahead goal at 11:44.
But again, it was short-lived, as Ryan Dzingel scored his second of the playoffs at 14:41.
That was Karlsson again with the primary assist, blasting a shot from the point off the iron, off the back of Matt Murray and then to Dzingel, who was uncovered at the right post for the layup goal to tie it up. It remained that way until the final buzzer of the period, sending the game to overtime.
The first extra session was a thriller. Karlsson nearly set up several goals. The Penguins hit posts and, at one point, the top of the goal cage behind Anderson. The action was fast and furious, making for one of the most memorable conference final overtimes in recent memory.
But then it was Kunitz, from his longtime linemate Sidney Crosby, ending it. It was his first goal in 34 games. And it was the biggest goal of the season for the Penguins.
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