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Penguins, Sharks expect 'quite the series' in Final

Pittsburgh, San Jose split two games; Kessel had three goals, Burns scored two

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

The Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009 with a 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

The Penguins will play the San Jose Sharks, who advanced to the Cup Final for the first time with a 5-2 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center on Wednesday.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final will be Monday in Pittsburgh (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins finished the regular season with more points than the Sharks (104-98) and will have home-ice advantage.

"It's going to be fast hockey," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "Just watching the game even [Wednesday] night, [it's] two teams that want to play the exact same way, that want to get their [defensemen] involved. Their power play is really dangerous. We'll have to find a way to stay out of the box, very similar to Tampa [Bay]. [We] did a good job of that, being disciplined. So we'll need that again.

"But just two teams who want to play the same way, and whoever gets their game the most often and the best is going to win. But it's going to be quite the series."

It is the fifth appearance in the Final for the Penguins, who defeated the Detroit Red Wings in seven games to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in 2009 (Pittsburgh won the Cup in back-to-back seasons in 1991-92). The Penguins are 3-1 in the Final, losing in six games to the Red Wings in 2008.

"Having gone through a couple of those early on, 20 and 21 years old, playing in the Finals, I think you have more of an appreciation for it now," Crosby said. "Just love the opportunity to be able to get back."

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Pittsburgh defeated the New York Rangers in five games in the first round and the Washington Capitals in six games before defeating the Lightning.

"Throughout the playoffs we've played different styles with different teams here, and we've been able to adjust and still get to our game," Crosby said. "we know the biggest challenge is ahead of us here, but we've got a great opportunity, and like you said, it wasn't easy getting to this point, so it would be great to finish it off the right way."

Forward Phil Kessel leads the Penguins with nine goals and nine assists in the postseason. Sidney Crosby has six goals and nine assists, including the game-winning goal in each of the first three games against the Lightning. Matt Murray made 16 saves in Game 7 and is 11-4-0 with a 2.21 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in the playoffs.

"I think that the young kids are bringing the energy and enthusiasm. The veteran guys, I think, have been great mentors for these kids, and I think that's why we have the dynamic we have," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I also told them that we're not finished yet. We've got to re-energize and be ready for the next round here. That's the most important one of all."

The Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the first round and the Nashville Predators in seven games in the second round before defeating the Blues.

"We know it's just another step, but it being the first time, it's been a long time, but we're enjoying the ride here," Sharks forward Patrick Marleau told NBCSN on Wednesday. "We've got one more step to go."

Video: Marleau on team's confidence, opportunity after Gm 6

San Jose, which began play in 1991-92, is the first team to make its first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since the Ottawa Senators in 2007 (lost to the Anaheim Ducks in five games).

Sharks forward Logan Couture (eight goals) leads the playoffs with 24 points, and forward Joe Pavelski leads the playoffs with 13 goals. Forward Joe Thornton has three goals and 18 points, and defenseman Brent Burns has six goals and 20 points. Goalie Martin Jones has started all 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games (12-6-0, 2.12 goals-against average, .919 save percentage, three shutouts).

"I think we've shown through the three rounds we've played that we can play any way you want to play, and as long as we stick to our game plan we're capable of having success," coach Peter DeBoer said. "… It's going to be tough, tough, and I think our guys are ready for that challenge."

Pittsburgh split the season series with San Jose. It lost to the Sharks 3-1 at Consol Energy Center on Nov 21 with Kessel scoring the goal. Kessel had two goals, Evgeni Malkin had a goal and two assists, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves in a 5-1 win Dec. 1 at SAP Center.

Burns scored two goals in San Jose's 3-1 win, defenseman Paul Martin had a goal and an assist, and Marleau had two assists. Jones made 38 saves. Marleau scored in the 5-1 loss.

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