The Pittsburgh Penguins won their second straight Stanley Cup and captain Sidney Crosby won his second consecutive Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP with a 2-0 win over the Predators in Nashville on June 11th. Pittsburgh scored twice in the last 95 seconds to clinch the best-of-seven series in six games. It’s the franchise’s fifth NHL championship with all of five of their Stanley Cup-winning games coming on the road. The team is the first to win back-to-back Cups since the Detroit Red Wings achieved the feat in 1997 and 1998, but the Penguins are the first to do it in the salary cap era.
As for Crosby, he led Pittsburgh in scoring in the final series with a goal and six assists and came in second in playoff scoring to teammate Evgeni Malkin with 27 points on eight goals and 19 assists in 25 games. Malkin finished the postseason with 28 points. Crosby is just the third player to win the Conn Smythe in two consecutive seasons since the award originated back in the 1964/65 campaign. Former Penguins’ great Mario Lemieux won it in 1990/91 and 1991/92 and former Philadelphia Flyers’ goalie Bernie Parent took the trophy home in 1973/74 and 1974/75.
Crosby also won the Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals this season and is finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy and this is his third Stanley Cup win overall. Former Predator Patric Hornqvist, who was drafted with the very last pick in 2005 when Crosby went first overall, scored the eventual game-winner with just 1:35 left on the clock while Matt Murray saved 27 shots for his second consecutive shutout in the series. Carl Hagelin then scored into an empty net with just 13.6 seconds to go after Nashville had pulled goaltender Pekka Rinne for an extra attacker.
Pittsburgh’s five Stanley Cups is now fifth on the all-time list for NHL championships, which brings the club level with the Edmonton Oilers. The loss in game six was just the first regulation time defeat for the Predators in the 2016/17 postseason. They thought they had opened the scoring early in the second period when Colton Sissons knocked a loose puck over the goal line. Referee Kevin Pollock blew the call though by whistling the play dead after apparently losing sight of the puck. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan also enters the record book as he becomes the first American coach to win a pair of Stanley Cups.
However, while Sullivan’s feat may very well be equaled in the future it’s going to be difficult to top goaltender Matt Murray’s achievement. Murray is the first goalie in history to win the Stanley Cup twice while still a rookie. He was called up late last season and didn’t appear in more than 25 games to lose his rookie status this season. The 23-year-old Murray also shut the Predators out over the last 126 minutes and 52 seconds of the final series and set a rookie mark in the finals with a pair of shutouts in the six-game series.
Nashville was enjoying its first Stanley Cup final as this is the furthest the franchise has advanced in the postseason in its 19-year history. The team entered the 2016/17 playoffs with just three postseason series victories out of seven. However the 16th-seeded team in the postseason reached the final by sweeping Chicago in four games and then taking care if St. Louis and Anaheim. In addition, captain Mike Fisher was the only player on the club’s roster to have ever played in a Stanley Cup final before. Pittsburgh beat Columbus in five games in the first round, but then had to go seven games to oust both Washington and Ottawa before facing Nashville.