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Stanley Cup Final

Penguins on cusp of winning Cup again thanks to stars

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel combine for eight points in Game 5 win against Predators

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- This was vintage dominance from the Pittsburgh Penguins. This was a championship team making an emphatic statement after two subpar performances in Nashville. This was never close.

The Penguins, with their superstars in the driver's seat and everyone else stepping on the gas, left back-to-back losses in Games 3 and 4 behind them to put together a 6-0 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday.


[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Penguins series coverage | Crosby drives Penguins to Game 5 win]


"Whole team stepped up," center Evgeni Malkin said. "Unbelievable win."

And now the Stanley Cup is right there for the taking again. One more win is all the Penguins need. One more and they will make what has looked like the impossible possible again.

No team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 has repeated as Stanley Cup champion. The Penguins, who lead this best-of-7 series 3-2, will end that 19-year repeat drought with a win in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

The Stanley Cup will be in the building.

"After this win, I think we have more confidence, good feeling," Malkin said, "and we go to Nashville to win."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Malkin picks the corner late in 1st

They will if they play like they did in Game 5.

"Our players had a will to win," coach Mike Sullivan said.

The contributions came from everywhere, a stark contrast to what the Penguins did in Games 3 and 4, when goalie Matt Murray allowed eight goals on 58 shots and only center Sidney Crosby and left wing Jake Guentzel scored.

This time, Crosby, Malkin and Phil Kessel dominated the way three of the best players in the world should dominate. They combined for eight points, including three assists from Crosby and a goal each from Malkin and Kessel.

Crosby had one of the best Stanley Cup Playoff performances of his career.

It started with his first shift, when he split Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis to turn a 1-on-2 into a partial breakaway. He hit the post but drew a holding penalty on Ellis that led to defenseman Justin Schultz's power-play goal 1:31 into the game.

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Crosby narrowly misses off the post

Crosby has 56 multipoint playoff games in his NHL career, and his 20 career points in the Stanley Cup Final are a Penguins record, one more than Mario Lemieux.

"When you see Sid do that on the first shift, it drives everybody to get up and be better at every single facet of the game," left wing Chris Kunitz said.

Kessel made good on Malkin's prediction, or perhaps demand, that he would score to break a six-game goal drought. He did at 8:02 of the second period to give Pittsburgh a 5-0 lead.

"It pushes people to be better when you say something out loud," Kunitz said. "You know that you have to be called upon to answer those words."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Kessel rips a laser from the slot

The Penguins had a lot of players answer the call in Game 5. Nine players other than Crosby, Kessel and Malkin got a point too.

"It was the best game we've played in this series," Sullivan said.

Their next closest wasn't close.

The defensemen chipped in.

Ron Hainsey, who had one point in the previous 10 games, scored a goal and had an assist. Schultz scored his first goal in the series and Pittsburgh's first on the power play in 14 opportunities since Game 1. Olli Maatta had an assist for his first point in the series. Trevor Daley also had an assist for his second point in the series.

"It's big anytime you can get some offense from the back end," Schultz said. "Ronnie was huge. All our guys were huge. Just trying to move it up to our forwards and play the way we've been playing all year. There are no Kris Letangs back here. We're just trying to each step up a little bit, and it's been working so far. We've got to get one more win though."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Hainsey finishes smooth passing play

The depth scorers scored.

Bryan Rust, who had no goals on three shots in the first four games and admittedly was frustrated with himself, scored on a beautiful far-side, top-shelf backhand off the rush to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead at 6:43 of the first period.

"It felt great, especially early in the game," Rust said. "Got my confidence back a little bit. Got my demeanor up. Definitely lessens the frustration."

Conor Sheary, who was back on a line with Crosby and rookie Jake Guentzel for the first time since the Eastern Conference First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets, scored from the slot off a sensational backhanded pass from Crosby.

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Sheary pads lead, Guentzel ties record

Patric Hornqvist, who had no points in the first four games, had an assist on Schultz's goal.

"We made a few adjustments, but I think guys in the locker room, we all manned up a little bit," Rust said. "We brought our game tonight."

They have to do it one more time.

"Nothing carries over, nothing is going to be given to you," Kunitz said. "We have to go out there and earn it. Can't wait for that puck to drop."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Schultz hammers home early PPG

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