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Penguins back up the talk in Game 6

Pittsburgh gets contributions from everyone to keep season alive

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

TAMPA -- Patric Hornqvist and Evgeni Malkin said the Pittsburgh Penguins were going to win, guaranteeing it without using the word guarantee. It was bold, if also confident. It was honest.

It was accurate.

The Penguins backed up the big talk from Hornqvist and Malkin with a big performance from the entire lineup Tuesday, from their goalie to their stars to their role players and to their coaches, both on the bench and in the press box, to extend the Eastern Conference Final to a seventh game.

Rookie Matt Murray, who watched Game 5 from the bench with a baseball cap on, made 28 saves. The Penguins helped their now 22-year-old rookie goalie with a massive performance in front of him and above him to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 in Game 6 at Amalie Arena.

Phil Kessel scored. Kris Letang scored. Sidney Crosby scored his third game-winning goal of the series and had an assist. Evgeni Malkin had an assist. Bryan Rust scored. Mike Sullivan risked his timeout on a bold challenge, a call made by video coach Andy Saucier, who sits up in the press box.

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm6: Crosby splits D, beats Vasilevskiy

The Penguins saved themselves from trailing 1-0 before building a 3-0 lead after two periods with the help of a 26-11 edge in shots on goal. Murray, who celebrates his 22nd birthday Wednesday, saved them in the third period with 17 mostly difficult saves on 19 shots when the Lightning were pushing and the Penguins were letting them. Rust provided the relief with a breakaway goal to make it 4-2 at 17:52.

"Because we've been in this spot so many times," Hornqvist said of why after losing Game 5 on Sunday he stated the Penguins would make it back to Consol Energy Center for Game 7 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). "We were not in the playoffs when [Sullivan] took over and we've been through a lot. The last three months, I think we've played really good hockey and this group always finds a way to win big games. Now we have to come up with an even bigger one."

They have the blueprint.

It requires a great goaltending performance from Murray. They hadn't gotten one in this series. The combined save percentage for Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury was .885. That never gets it done.

It requires the skaters in front of Murray to double down on that expected great goaltending performance by stopping Tampa Bay from generating Grade A scoring chances. The Lightning thrived off of their rare but excellent opportunities in Games 4 and 5.

Pittsburgh also requires more than just a sprinkle of its star power to advance to the Stanley Cup Final; it needs a rain shower from Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and, perhaps most importantly, Letang.

The Penguins got it all in Game 6. Hello Game 7.

"We know the circumstances," Crosby said. "You go out there with the mindset of playing desperate. That's pretty natural when you're in this situation. We have confidence in the whole group no matter who it needs to be to step up. I think everyone played great tonight."

Still, it was a lucky break and a keen eye from Saucier that got Murray and the Penguins going.

If not for Saucier spotting Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin's illegal right skate, it would have been 1-0 Tampa Bay 5:12 into the first period.

Saucier spotted that Drouin was offside with barely a half of his right foot in the zone and all of his left foot in the air. He radioed down to the bench, to assistant coach Rick Tocchet. Sullivan got the information and issued the challenge, risking his timeout with 54:48 still left to play.

The goal came off the board. The Penguins were back to square one.

"It was a huge moment in the game," Sullivan said. "If they get the first goal, it lights up the building, and all of a sudden, momentum gets difficult. I thought it was a great call by [Saucier]. I think our team actually got a boost from it because we knew we had dodged a bullet there."

They used the momentum to gradually take over the game, with the help of some more luck that gave them a 5-on-3 power play.

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm6: Letang wrists it past Vasilevskiy

An interference penalty on Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman and a delay of game penalty on Victor Hedman for shooting the puck the length of the ice and into the netting gave the Penguins a 5-on-3 for 1:19 at 17:50 of the first period.

Malkin to Crosby to Kessel and to the back of the net. It gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

"When you get those breaks you have to take advantage of that, and we did," Hornqvist said. "That was a big part of our win."

Murray was a huge part of the win.

He came up with his biggest save of the night, of the series, maybe the season 45 seconds into the second period. All he had to do was hold his ground and have his glove in position, but it was enough to stop Ryan Callahan's redirection from in front of the net.

"That was my first real test," Murray said. "That was probably a big save just for the timing of it."

It was 3-0 Penguins before the second period was over.

Letang scored on a far-side shot from the top of the right circle at 7:40. Crosby had a dominant moment by taking the puck in the neutral zone, dancing around Stralman and shooting the puck between Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy's legs at 19:34.

At that point, the Penguins had four points from their top line, one from their second, two from their third and one from their best defenseman. That'll work.

"You don't have to do anything special," Crosby said. "You've just got to do your job."

Now they have to do it all over again. They think they will. Anybody want to guarantee it?

"That's going to be the hardest one," Hornqvist said.

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