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Penguins celebrate second consecutive Stanley Cup championship

Pittsburgh streets lined with crowd of 650,000 for parade in honor of NHL's first repeat champion in 19 years

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- It's not often a sequel outdoes the original. This city might have bucked that trend Wednesday.

A crowd of about 650,000, according to city officials, greeted the Pittsburgh Penguins during their Stanley Cup championship parade through downtown.

That would surpass the estimated 400,000 fans who attended the Penguins' 2016 parade, the largest sports parade in Pittsburgh history.

It wasn't just the number of fans that made this celebration distinct. The Penguins traveled in trucks through the same route, down Grant Street before turning left onto the Boulevard of the Allies, as they did last year. But this time, the celebration traveled to Point State Park, where thousands more fans could take advantage of a more spacious venue.

Video: Fans celebrate Cup win at Penguins victory parade

"On behalf of the team, I just want to thank you guys," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said to the crowd. "We think we have a unique fan base."

Unique was the right word. 

Leo Miller, who arrived at 5:30 a.m. ET from Frederick, Maryland, stood in the front row with a large baguette, hoping forward Phil Kessel would notice.

"All I'm trying to do, I got this piece of bread, I just want Phil Kessel to take a bite of it," Miller said. "That's all I'm asking. If Phil Kessel comes and takes a bite of this, it'll make my day."

Zach Brickner drove seven hours from Hampton, Virginia. Walking up Grant Street, Brickner was dressed as a large Stanley Cup in black and yellow camouflage pants. He held two aluminum foil Stanley Cups, one from last year and another he made after Pittsburgh defeated the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

"I can't take credit for the Cup on my head because my dad made that last night and I made the two Stanley Cups," Brickner said. "We did the same thing last year. I actually threw this one [in his right hand] to [forward Patric] Hornqvist as he was driving by, and he raised it up."

Video: Mayor Bill Peduto on the Penguins' victory parade

The expected sights and sounds from past Penguins and Pittsburgh Steelers parades were there as well. Fans again stood along the barricades of a parking garage along the Boulevard of the Allies as others leaned out of windows.

Banners hung from several city government buildings, congratulating the Penguins on becoming the NHL's first repeat champions since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings. Large cannons blasted black and gold confetti, with center Sidney Crosby periodically hoisting the Stanley Cup from the bed of a black truck.

The atmosphere impressed Diane Lovell, who drove from a town just outside of Wheeling, West Virginia.

"I think it's awesome," Lovell said. "Everybody's excited. We're hot. We're using the signs as fans, but it's definitely exciting.

Crosby jumped from the truck at several points. He ran to the crowd with the Cup in hand, allowing fans to touch a trophy that has now been celebrated in Pittsburgh five times.

"You look at what we went through with all of the injuries, I think it was 34 guys who played this year on our roster," Crosby said. "It was really a team effort. I'm so proud to be a part of this group. It was obviously special to be able to go back-to-back.

"We all knew how tough that was going to be, but it's an amazing group of guys." 

Video: Murray talks about his relationship with Fleury

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury also was a star of the show, although he didn't speak to the crowd. Fleury traveled the streets with a grin seemingly glued to his face, and the fans repeatedly chanted his last name, as they've done for the past 13 seasons.

Fleury may have played his last game for the Penguins; he waived his no-movement clause and is expected to be exposed to the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.

The chants for him became louder when Fleury took the stage, before he was joined by Matt Murray, who has replaced Fleury as Pittsburgh's starting goaltender. The two simultaneously hoisted the Cup, with Fleury on the right and Murray on the left, with the crowd alternating between chanting each of their last names.

Scott Goodwill, who arrived at 1:45 a.m., said he has admired Fleury's tenure in Pittsburgh.

"I'm very appreciative of everything he's done for the team and this city," Goodwill said. "He's always been a team player. I hope to see him in the playoffs if he goes out west."

As each of the Penguins reached the parade's end, a swarm descended upon Point State Park, filling the streets and any grassy areas that weren't already taken. Fewer words were spoken than last year, but the sentiment remained the same.

The Penguins appreciated their fans, and the fans appreciated them.

"It's great to be able to share this with all of you," Crosby said, with the crowd roaring. "Thank you very much."

Video: Paul Steigerwald on the Pittsburgh Penguins

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