NASHVILLE – Patric Hornqvist used to be a Nashville Predator. In Game 6 on Sunday night, he was the one who crushed their Stanley Cup dreams and handed the Pittsburgh Penguins their second straight Stanley Cup championship.
Hornqvist’s goal with 1:35 left in regulation was the difference, as goalie Matt Murray made 27 saves in an outstanding effort, outdueling Pekka Rinne (29 saves). Carl Hagelin added an empty netter for the 2-0 win.
On the game-winner, Hornqvist managed to bounce the puck off of Rinne’s arm and into the net, swinging his stick to connect with it in mid-air. It was his fifth goal of the playoffs.
The Penguins become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98. Pittsburgh won its third Cup since 2009, all of them with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the way.
This year’s championship was an impressive one, as the Penguins played the entirety of the playoffs without top defenseman Kris Letang, who was injured in the regular season. It was also a championship captured by a group that had played well over 200 games in the last year.
The first period featured strong goaltending by Murray and Rinne, with the Penguins outshooting the Predators, 9-8. It Murray, though, who was tested big time with less than two minutes to go in the period. He robbed James Neal with a glove save, and then held the fort during another Predators’ push near his crease, stopping Neal a second time.
The second period was another tight one, with stellar chances for both teams. The Predators actually put a puck behind Murray early in the period, thanks to Colton Sissons – alas, it was discounted because referee Kevin Pollock had blown the play dead with a quick whistle, assuming Murray had the puck when in fact it was behind him.
Sissons was later stopped on a breakaway by Murray.
The third period was, you guessed it, another tightly played battle. The Predators had a two-man advantage midway through the period, as Olli Maatta went off for holding and Trevor Daley was called for roughing on the penalty kill. But the Penguins killed it, thanks to more stellar goaltending from Murray.
Later, Sissons hit the post on a one-timer.
The Predators entered the game 9-1 at home in the postseason, and outscored the Penguins 9-2 in their previous two games in Nashville. A crowd of 100,000 was expected in downtown Nashville for the game.
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