Penguins blank Predators, repeat as Stanley Cup champs

Former Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, players Ron Hainsey and Matt Cullen win title

Aaron Doster—USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Penguins players celebrate after defeating the Nashville Predators Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final at Bridgestone Arena.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As 58-plus minutes ticked by in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final without a goal, Pittsburgh Penguins right winger Patric Hornqvist changed nothing about his style of play.”You just play the right way,” he said. “One bounce can change the whole game.”And so it did for Hornqvist and the now back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.The former Nashville Predator scored at 18:25 of the third period to snap a scoreless tie and lead Pittsburgh to a 2-0 win at raucous Bridgestone Arena, giving the Penguins a 4-2 series win over the Predators.In becoming the first team since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Cup champs, the Penguins did it with excellent defense and the occasional dollop of luck every title team needs.Center Sidney Crosby, who scored eight goals and dished out 19 assists in 24 playoff games, was named Conn Smythe Trophy winner as postseason most valuable player for the second straight year.Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray stopped 27 shots for his second shutout in as many games and the fourth of his career in the postseason. He was brilliant during a 3:28 stretch of power play time by Nashville midway through the third period, coming up with four stops.And the one time Murray couldn’t stop a puck from entering the net, the quick whistle of referee Kevin Pollock prevented the goal for him.Early in the second period, center Colton Sissons appeared to put the Predators on the board by poking in a loose puck from the crease. However, Pollock, working in his second Cup final, lost sight of the puck and blew his whistle.That nullified the goal and sent the sellout crowd, which by one unofficial count chucked eight catfish on the ice during the evening, into a frenzy.”Obviously, it’s unfortunate, but what are you going to do? It just [stinks] that we’re on the losing side of it,” Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said.It wasn’t that the Predators lacked for chances beyond the disallowed marker. Murray stoned Sissons on a breakaway later in the period, and he also denied Craig Smith on a breakaway.After Nashville misfired on its extended power play time, it nearly scored with about six minutes left. Subban teed up Sissons for a wrister in the right faceoff circle that beat Murray to the glove side but clanged off the right post.As the clock slipped under two minutes, the first overtime period of the series looked like a good possibility. Then Pittsburgh, as it often does, struck with a quick counterattack.On the tiebreaking tally, Justin Schultz’s shot was wide but Hornqvist, known for his willingness to score tough goals while withstanding heavy contact, got to the puck at the goal line. From just behind the right post, he banked the puck in off of goaltender Pekka Rinne for his fifth playoff marker.Predators coach Peter Laviolette challenged the play for goalie interference, but the goal stood after a short review.”It couldn’t have worked out any better for me,” Hornqvist said. “The last minute or so on the bench was very emotional for me.”Carl Hagelin sealed it with an empty-netter at 19:46, his second of the playoffs. Nashville fans, already sullen at the disallowed goal and the prospect of the Penguins celebrating on their ice, erupted in a shower of towel- and shirt-throwing disgust.Moments later, Pittsburgh players were firing gloves and helmets toward the ceiling, celebrating a hard-earned Cup. They played 25 of a possible 28 games, surviving Game 7s with the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators before fending off the Predators in a series that mostly lived up to expectations in spite of largely lopsided final scores.”We went through a lot of adversity and we were able to overcome each challenge thrown our way,” Murray said. “It says a lot to the character of this team that we were able to compete, no matter what bad stuff happened.”Rinne saved 27 of 28 shots but lost for just the second time in 11 postseason home games.”It’s a tough feeling to watch their dream come true when you were so close to it yourself,” Nashville forward Filip Forsberg said.NOTES: Pittsburgh’s 5-0 road record with a chance to clinch the Stanley Cup is the best record in NHL history in that situation. Only Montreal has won more Cups on the road with 10. … Nashville D Ryan Ellis, who sustained an undisclosed injury in the second period of Game 5, was back in uniform and in the starting lineup for Game 6. … Notable scratches for the Penguins were D Mark Streit, D Chad Ruhwedel and C Nick Bonino. … Notable Predators scratches were RW P.A. Parenteau, LW Harry Zolnierczyk and LW Vernon Fiddler.