Inside the SAP Center in Pittsburgh, gloves and sticks went flying on the ice promptly at 10:47 p.m. EDT Sunday night as the Stanley Cup would be returning to Pittsburgh for the first time since 2009. The Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team conquered the Shark-infested waters of game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals in San Jose, California, using a 3-1 victory to secure the oldest trophy in North American sports.
The win gave Pittsburgh its fourth championship and prompted fans in the city to take to the streets in celebration. Fans poured out of the SAP Center, which was filled with “Yinz” watching the game on the big screens. Crowds erupted in chants of “We won the cup!”
The game itself was close throughout with the Pens taking an initial 1-0 lead, then holding a 2-1 lead into the third period. After the Sharks pulled their goaltender late in the contest, a breakout from Penguins’ Patric Hornqvist led to an open-net goal with 62 seconds remaining and opened up the sale of bootleg championship T-shirts in the streets of Pittsburgh.
The Sharks’ goaltender, Martin, had an exceptional game and series, constantly keeping San Jose close in every game.
But throughout the series, it was the Pens’ skill and speed that applied constant pressure in the offensive zone.
Combine this with a defensive cast made up of “Kris Letang and company,” that raised eyebrows in the playoffs and ultimately shut down the Shark’s dangerous power play, and the Pens concocted a championship recipe.
The Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby won the Conn Smythe Trophy for best player in the NHL post-season. Other star faces like Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Phil Kessel led the team, but it took a stock of youth energy and veteran resilience to ultimately secure the title.
Rookie goaltender Matt Murray came in to replace the injured goaltending star, Marc-Andre Fleury, in late March only to retain the starting job throughout the playoffs and tie an NHL record for a goaltender by winning 15 times in the playoffs.
Murray was brilliant.
Contributions from rookie Bryan Rust and 39 year-old Matt Cullen were complimented by surprisingly stout defensive work by names like Ben Lovejoy, Olli Matta, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Shultz, and Ian Cole.
The Pens’ Stanley Cup is the culmination of two years of crafty personnel moves from general manager Jimmy Rutherford. Arguably the most important move was firing head coach Mike Johnston and replacing him with Mike Sullivan, coach of the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate, amidst midseason turmoil.
With the win, Western Pennsylvania has now quenched their title anticipation.
Fans can sleep well in preparation for Wednesday’s city parade where thousands are expected.
Lord Stanley’s cup is back in the ‘Burgh.