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Stanley Cup Final

Fans celebrate Penguins championship in Pittsburgh

PPG Paints Arena sold out to watch back-to-back titles become reality

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- There was 1:35 left in the third period when Pittsburgh Penguins fans jumped out of their seats at PPG Paints Arena.

Patric Hornqvist gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead against the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Pittsburgh fans hugged, threw towels in the air and began to chant, "We want the Cup!"

At Bridgestone Arena in Tennessee, Predators coach Peter Laviolette challenged for goalie interference. Here, the crowd booed before it went silent.

"I went from pure stomach ache and stress," Tyler Mitlo said.

Hornqvist's goal was upheld.

"… To pure relief and ecstasy."


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The crowd of about 18,000 fans cheered again, and once more when Carl Hagelin scored into an empty net with 14 seconds remaining. The Penguins won 2-0 and became the first repeat Stanley Cup champions since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings.

Fans here watched at a sold-out watch party at PPG Paints Arena, with an extra big screen across the street.

"There's no sports atmosphere like Pittsburgh, in all honesty," Cole Stephens said. "You're not going to go anywhere else and see this atmosphere. It's unreal here. It's unreal. … It honestly just shows you how much the city of Pittsburgh rallies around its teams."

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There was a similar scene when the Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks to win the Stanley Cup at SAP Center in 2016. That crowd was more than 16,000 fans, which was impressive at the time.

On Sunday, Pittsburgh one-upped itself, not just in size, but in atmosphere.

The $10 ticket price, with proceeds benefitting the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, allowed fans who can't often attend Stanley Cup games to participate in a playoff atmosphere. That was evident before the puck dropped.

Fans began singing "We want that Cup, got to have that Cup," to the beat of "We Got the Funk" by George Clinton. Beach balls and balloons bounced throughout the lower-level seats while other fans clamored for shirts thrown by radio hosts.

"Every single sport in Pittsburgh is taken seriously and fans come behind them every year," Lydia DeFazio said.

Tweet from @penguins: That moment when Hornqvist scored...

Makayla Kotanichek, who admitted she cried after Hornqvist's goal, agreed.

"We're all loyal to our Pittsburgh sports, especially the Penguins," she said.

Throughout the game, the fans groaned at every chance the Penguins missed and cheered each of Matt Murray's 27 saves.

All of this would have seemed improbable in December 2015, with Pittsburgh struggling before hiring coach Mike Sullivan on Dec. 12. At that time, many probably wouldn't have believed the Penguins would go on to one championship, let alone two.

But several fans said they always saw this coming.

"I wouldn't have doubted it," Kyle McCormick said. "I have a lot of faith in our team and a lot of faith in our players, a lot of faith in our city, that we could come back and win championships back-to-back. All of our sports teams have proven that we have the best sports teams in the United States of America."

The fans remained in their seats to watch the Penguins hoist the Cup with Sidney Crosby winning the Conn Smythe Trophy for a second straight season. They then filed out into the halls, where small celebrations spontaneously took place.

Slowly, they made their way out onto the streets of Pittsburgh. After a tense championship defense, one could only guess how those fans would spend their Sunday night.

"I'm ready to go to bed," Zach Carpenter said. "I'm just drained."

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