TAMPA - The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena on Tuesday and evened the best-of-7 series at 3-3.
The Penguins led 3-0 through two periods on goals from Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby before hanging on in the third. The Lightning got on the board 5:30 into the third when Brian Boyle's centering pass was accidentally deflected into the Pittsburgh net by Kessel.
Boyle cut it to 3-2 with a right circle shot with 7:11 remaining, but Bryan Rust's breakaway goal with 2:08 left sealed it for the Penguins. Nick Bonino scored an empty-net goal with 53.1 seconds left.
Back in the Penguins net after watching Marc-Andre Fleury play in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 5, rookie goaltender Matt Murray did his part with 28 saves, including 17 in the third period.
Video: PIT@TBL, Gm6: Crosby splits D, beats Vasilevskiy
What we learned: The Penguins backed up their confident words about forcing a Game 7 on Thursday in Pittsburgh with a solid effort in front of Murray until the third period. They controlled the puck and pressured the Lightning into turnovers and bad decisions for much of the first two periods before sitting back a little in the third.
After vowing to learn their lesson from a 7-3 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 6 of last season's Eastern Conference Final, the Lightning went out and were flat for much of the first two periods. They had a Jonathan Drouin goal 5:12 into the game disallowed after a coach's challenge because Drouin was offside, but did little otherwise in the opening 40 minutes, managing 11 shots on goal.
Although goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (29 saves) did his best to keep the Lightning close, he allowed at least three goals for fifth time in as many starts in the series.
What this means for the Penguins: As Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist promised, the Penguins are bringing the series back to Pittsburgh for a Game 7 and kept alive their chances of reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009.
What this means for the Lightning: After failing to finish off the Penguins on home ice, they must find a way to repeat history and win a Game 7 on the road to advance to the Cup Final for the second year in a row. They did it last year against the Rangers. Can they do it again?
Video: PIT@TBL, Gm6: Boyle scores his second of the night
Key moment: The crowd was going crazy and the Lightning appeared to have a 1-0 lead on a goal from Drouin 5:12 into the game, but Penguins coach Mike Sullivan challenged the play with the belief that Drouin was offside. Video replay showed that Drouin's right skate was across the blue line while his left skate was off the ice, so the goal was disallowed. Instead of the Lightning getting a goal on their first shot against Murray, the score went back to 0-0.
Unsung player of the game: Forward Conor Sheary returned to the Penguins lineup after being a healthy scratch and helped set up Letang's goal that made it 2-0 at 7:40 of the second period.
What's next: Game 7 at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC Sports, TVA Sports). The winner will advance to the Cup Final and face the San Jose Sharks or St. Louis Blues