Written by The Burgh Blog writer: Austin Tocco
The date is May 25, 2016 and the Pittsburgh Penguins have survived another day. Elimination was staring the Penguins right in the face last night but the Penguins outlasted the powerful Lightning by a score of 5-2. On the brink of elimination, the Penguins had to play game 6 on the road in front of a hungry crowd looking to watch their team advance to the Cup Finals for the second year in a row. The play of the Penguins did not stun me as they had to play with desperation, but the resilience of the team was incredible.
You could sense the nerves on the Penguins bench through the TV screen as “Doc” Emrick announced the starting goaltenders. The game began and the Penguins never looked back. The first Penguins goal was by Phil Kessel on a 5-3 power-play 18 minutes into the game. Some of the Lightning’s best penalty kill guys were in the box serving their penalties, Callahan and Hedman. Letang, and Crosby added tallies during the second period to make it 3-0 in favor of the visitors. You could hear a feather hit the ice that is how quiet Amalie Arena was. The crowd was hoping that it would not have been a repeat of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals where the Rangers dominated the Lightning in Tampa Bay to force a game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Early in the 3rd period, Brian Boyle’s shot from the circle found its way behind Matt Murray, it deflected right of off Kessel’s stick and into the net. 7 minutes after Boyle’s first goal, the power-forward found another hole and executed, making it 3-2. With just under 4 minutes left to play, Chris Kunitz set up a perfect pass to Bryan Rust who found himself on a breakaway against Andrei Vasilevskiy and finished a beautiful forehand goal to make it 4-2. That sealed the deal, as Nick Bonino added icing to the cake by scoring an empty net goal. The Tampa faithful were stunned to see their team have to bounce back, yet again, but in a game 7 on the road in Pittsburgh.
There was not one player in this whole game who did not shine under all of the pressure that was on the team’s shoulders. Malkin and Crosby led by example by setting up the first goal for Kessel, and they never looked back. The entire game was dictated by the play of the Penguins and the superstars took advantage of that opportunity. From Conor Sheary all the way up to the last line of defense, Matt Murray, the team was solid. For being under that much pressure to force a game 7 against the quick and skilled Tampa club, they showed no fear. They all knew that they had a specific role to allow the team to have the best chance to win, and each and every player performed above average. As a Penguins fan, that game was truly enjoyable to watch, but the next game will decide whether or not they are playing in the Stanley Cup Finals or not.
Statistically speaking, the Penguins are not good at home for game 7’s. I have been saying this all year, this team is different. There is no way that theses Penguins allow for the Tampa Bay Lightning to come into our building and steal our thunder, not this year. This 2016 team is destined for greatness and the time is now. One game, one shift at a time. Today marks the 25th anniversary of the 1990-91 Stanley Cup championship, it would be a wonderful sight for Penguins fans to see a replication of that performance.
We are all very excited to see what tomorrow has in store for the Penguins, they control their own destiny at this point. Win and move on, or lose and go home. The puck will drop around 8:10 EST on NBCSN tomorrow night from Consol Energy Center. The team truly believes that they can accomplish their goal, we as fans need to be loud and proud tomorrow night from puck drop till the final horn goes off.
For future Penguin updates, follow me on twitter @TheBurghBlog_AT