NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sidney Crosby has been bringing the Stanley Cup back home to Pittsburgh to get another consecutive year. He’s bringing another MVP trophy, too.
Patric Hornqvist played 1:35 left and Matt Murray made 27 saves for his second straight shutout as the Penguins became the first group in two years to repeat as winner with a 2-0 triumph over the Nashville Predators in Game 6 on Sunday night.
The Penguins won their fifth title — most of them 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 champion to defend their title. The Penguins are the very first to do it at the salary-cap era.
“We knew that it was going to be tough all year, but we just tried to keep with it,” Crosby said. “We had a great deal of accidents and things like that. We just kept discovering ways. This was really what we did all year long, all playoffs. It’s great to be able to perform it.”
Crosby also became just the third player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in consecutive years since the Stanley Cup MVP to move along with his third championship. He headed the Closing in scoring with one goal and six assists, including three in a 6-0 win in Game 5 which place the Penguins on the doorstep of another title. Only teammate Evgeni Malkin (28 points) had more than Crosby’s 27 this postseason.
“You get a small window to perform and have a profession,” Crosby said. “I feel blessed, but I also know how difficult it had been so you only want to try to create the best of it”
Hornqvist scored off Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne’s left elbow, the former Predator silencing the raucous crowd that had stood for extended minutes and flung a couple more catfish, also. Nashville challenged for goalie interference, however, the target was upheld. With Pekka Rinne pulled for an extra attacker, Carl Hagelin put off a bench celebration with an empty netter with 13.6 seconds left.
“Obviously, it is going to be the biggest goal I am going to score,” Hornqvist explained. “That’s always going to stand very close to my heart”
All that was left was that the celebrating. Crosby took the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman before committing the trophy off to veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey who handed it to veteran forward Matt Cullen.
Nashville lost for only the first time in law on home ice this postseason and this one had a hard luck. Colton Sissons had a goal erased by a whistle 67 minutes into the next period. The Predators went 0 of 4 with the man advantage, including 32 seconds of a 5-on-3 in the third.
“It stings,” said defenseman P.K. Subban, brought within a trade stunner from the offseason and a foil for Crosby all series. “I think the biggest thing we have got to choose from this is, don’t forget the sensation. That is what is going to drive . …. We’re going to be back here again next year”
Forget a golden anniversary: The Penguins will cap their 50th season with their titles on the most well-known silver cup in sport — again. It is also the third championship for Crosby plus a small number of teammates in the 2009 title group, surpassing both won from the Penguins teams headed by current owner Mario Lemieux from the 1990s.
And it’s the second championship in 18 months for trainer Mike Sullivan, who has yet to lose a playoff series since taking over after Mike Johnston was terminated. Sullivan is your first American-born trainer to win the Cup not once, but twice.
“It’s been an wonderful year from the start, trying to replicate,” Lemieux said. “A lot of these men played in the playoffs and showed a lot of character. Of course, Sid being the best player on earth again and winning the Conn Smythe. He was our chief and picked up the team 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 did not play enough games to get that tag removed. That is something neither Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden or Cam Ward ever managed, but the 23-year-old Murray finished this Closing 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 doesn’t get any better”
The loss ended the upstart Predators’ deepest playoff run in their 19-year history and one which became the talk of the town — and the league.
Having won only three of 12 playoff series before this calendar year, Nashville started this postseason by removing the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in four matches. In doing so, the Predators became the first eighth-seeded group to sweep a first-round show because the current playoff format was released in 1994. Nashville went through St. Louis and Anaheim into the Closing, where only captain Mike Fisher on the roster had ever played .
The stingy Predators found Pittsburgh was up to the task, together with the Penguins taking the first two games at home ice. Nashville roared back in your home to even up things, however, the Penguins hauled Nashville to install Game 6.
The Penguins ruined Nashville’s big party on the last night of CMA Music Festival, which attracted more than 100,000 to downtown Nashville. Country star Luke Bryan serenaded fans out of the rooftop of a honky-tonk in a performance that kicked off the television broadcast, and he also sang a four-song set for fans inside and outside the arena an hour before face-off.
Religion Hill became the newest to sing the national anthem with husband, star Tim McGraw, giving her a hug once completed before waving a towel in each hand. At least five catfish hit the ice before the face-off.
Then a series that hadn’t featured even a single one-goal game went scoreless during the first 58 minutes. The Predators thought they had the primary goal of the match, just like they did in Game 1 at Pittsburgh, simply to have referee Kevin Pollock wave off it instantly. He had whistled the play dead when he lost sight of the puck with Murray on the ice between him and the puck.
Sissons tapped the puck to the web 67 minutes into the second time behind Murray’s back. Officials huddled, but the goal was not allowed.
Murray also ceased Sissons on a breakaway midway through the second and gloved a shot from Viktor Arvidsson later in the period. The Penguins also killed off 32 seconds of a 5-on-3 at 8:47 of the next after Trevor Daley punched Ryan Ellis with Olli Maatta already in the box for tripping. Murray made a huge stop on a shot by Mattias Ekholm accompanied with a rescue on Arvidsson.
“We never gave up,” Fisher said. “We lost a lot of guys to injuries. Sixteen seed. No one gave us a chance against anyone and here we’re in Game 6. Things did not go our way, but that happens. That is sport. Like I said, this group never gave up. We thought all the way”
This championship season for the Penguins lacked a number of the play from a year before, but it had been far from a slam dunk. Washington won the President’s Trophy for a second consecutive season and pushed Pittsburgh to seven matches in the second round. Ottawa did the same thing, forcing the Penguins to double overtime to clinch the Eastern Conference title.
Crosby, Malkin and many others played at the World Cup of Hockey prior to the season, which makes this an even more year than normal. In the long run, the Penguins had more than enough in the tank to bring home another title.
“We have got a collection of guys who understand what it takes 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 first goalie with 2 shutouts in one Cup Final because Boston’s Tim Thomas and Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo had two apiece in 2011. … Nashville completed the show going 0 on the power play over the final two games. … Grammy winners Cage that the Elephant performed during the next intermission after playing at Bonnaroo on Friday night.

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