Penguins return to Stanley Cup final with Game 7 win over Senators

"They did awesome. We weren't supposed to beat Boston - OK, maybe we were, I don't know - but definitely we weren't supposed to beat the Rangers".

"Sid's got great vision, and he put it right there", Kunitz said.

The 37-year-old Kunitz picked up his second goal of the game Thursday at 5:09 in double overtime to give the Penguins a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Now, the Pens have just one last hurdle to clear before the franchise can lay claim to being the first back-to-back champions of the National Hockey League since Detroit did it in 1997 and '98. The Senators' focus on Crosby allowed Kunitz to set up unguarded.

"It's just one of those games when the stakes are this high, anything can happen, so it's relief", Crosby said. I know him, but it's not about that. And I said to him: 'I've got to tell you Peter, if you hadn't got the job in Nashville, you'd have been on the top of my list.' We would have reunited.

These two teams crossed paths just twice this season. Matt Murray stopped 27 shots on his 23rd birthday. The Penguins will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night. Crosby (7G, 13 A) and Evgeni Malkin (7G, 17A) are two leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy. And yet here they are on the doorstep to a title once again.

"It was just, I thought it was meant to be", said Anderson. "The biggest step is ahead". The Penguins had thrown their first proverbial punch with Chris Kunitz's goal in the second period, but Mark Stone countered 20 seconds later with a goal of his own.

Both took the pregame warmup and were considered game-time decision because of upper-body injuries.Two coaches who know their teams' strengths, cover the weaknesses, and find a way to get the most from their team ... it only makes sense they're the last two teams standing."It's not fun thinking about the future", Kunitz said.

Just don't call them cursed. This is its fourth Stanley Cup final appearance in the last 10 years.

"They gave it their all". In other words, they undeniably have been the NHL's best team this postseason.

Despite the disparity in their records, with Pittsburgh amassing 111 regular season points to Nashville's 94, they have both earned the same number of points (56) since January 1, and in the playoffs, the Predators are 12-4, and the Penguins 12-7.

However, the Senators have responded well to adversity throughout their playoff run, and Game 7 was no different. But in some ways, it's been more impressive.

"At some point we're going to have to win a game on the road". The Predators won each game by a single goal; 1-0 against Chicago, 4-3 against St. Louis, and 3-2 in overtime against Anaheim.

It's hard to define exactly what the Penguins defenseman consider normal, familiar or tried-and-true this season. Erik Karlsson hit the post with a slap shot that bounced to the other side of the net to Dzingel, who buried it to tie the game roughly three minutes after Schultz's goal.

Unbowed, Pittsburgh continued to press. The Penguins are the fifth team in the NHL's expansion era to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals by winning a Game 7 in overtime.

The next step, the last step, awaits.

Pittsburgh had the second-best record in the regular season, while the Predators were the No. 16 team. Philadelphia needed seven games to dispatch the pesky Bruins, but rolled past the No. 7 Montreal Canadiens in five games to reach the final. You have encouraged us in our mission - to provide quality news and watchdog journalism. You don't even need to follow the sport the rest of the year to enjoy it. Our role as an independent, fact-based news organization has never been clearer.

"Everybody always counts us out".

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  • Julie Sanders