For the first time since 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins will play for a Stanley Cup.
The Penguins outlasted Tampa Bay, 2-1, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday to overcome a 3-2 series deficit and reach the Stanley Cup for the third time in nine seasons.
Scott Ferrall, who loves the Penguins more than his family and oxygen, was elated. He was also fairly surprised.
“If I would have asked you six months ago would you think that the Penguins could play in the Stanley Cup Final, you probably would have said absolutely not the way the team was going,” NBC Sports NHL lead analyst Eddie Olczyk said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “But a few trades by Jimmy Rutherford, the general manager (really helped). You bring in some mobility on the back end with Justin Schultz and with Trevor Daley, you bring in Carl Hagelin, you bring some guys up from Wilkes-Barre Scranton in the American Hockey League and you make a coaching change. Sidney Crosby is shot out of a cannon for about three-and-a-half months, and the next thing you know, the Penguins find a way.”
Bryan Rust scored both goals for Pittsburgh, which outshot Tampa Bay 39-17. The Lightning tied the game at 1 with a goal by Jonathan Drouin midway through the second period, but Rust scored the game-winner less than a minute later.
The Penguins blanked the Lightning for the final 30+ minutes of the game.
“I thought that (Pittsburgh) could (hold the one-goal lead),” Olczyk said. “The lack of consistent chances that the Tampa Bay Lighting were generating – I mean, the first two-and-a-half minutes of the third period, you thought, ‘Man, oh man, it looks like Tampa is going to get two or three goals.’ Then they hit a patch there were (they didn’t get many chances).”
Pittsburgh will face San Jose in the Stanley Cup. The Penguins host Game 1 Monday at 8 p.m. ET.
“Here they are four wins away from a Stanley Cup,” Olczyk said. “They’ve come a long way here. They were the better team in this series (against Tampa Bay). I don’t think there’s any doubt. It took them seven games, but now they’re going to get a chance to take on a team that’s going great down in San Jose.”
The Sharks advanced to the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. They beat the Kings in five games, the Predators in seven and the Blues in six.