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Stanley Cup Final

5 Reasons: Why Penguins won Stanley Cup

Play of Sidney Crosby, bounce-back by goalie Matt Murray helped Pittsburgh to second straight championship

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

The Pittsburgh Penguins' 2-0 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Sunday made them the first repeat Cup champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

The journey to a second straight Stanley Cup wasn't easy for the Penguins. Injuries thinned the defense and sapped some of Pittsburgh's offensive firepower. The secondary scoring never fully was there like it was a year ago.

Yet the Penguins won it all for the third time since 2009.

Here are 5 reasons the Penguins won the Stanley Cup:

 

1. SIDNEY CROSBY TOOK OVER

Sidney Crosby was impressive throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs but might have performed at his best during the Cup Final. He had two assists in Game 1 before being held without a point in Game 2 and having one assist in Game 3.

He scored in the Penguins' 4-1 loss in Game 4. In Game 5, he dominated from the first shift, when he forced Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis to take a holding penalty by driving to the net, and then had an assist on Justin Schultz's power-play goal. He had two more assists in a 6-0 win.

Crosby didn't have a point in Game 6 but finished as the leading scorer in the series with seven points (one goal, six assists).

He had 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) in 24 playoff games, second in the League to teammate Evgeni Malkin, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP for the second straight year.

"I think this feeling right now, you can't match this," Crosby said.

Video: Crosby discusses winning back-to-back Stanley Cups

 

2. OTHER STARS SHINED IN CRITICAL MOMENTS

Malkin, who led the playoffs with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists), didn't receive the same amount of attention as Crosby but was nearly as impressive. He had one goal in each of the first two games of the Final and had two points (one goal, one assist) in Game 5.

After losing Games 3 and 4, Malkin predicted teammate Phil Kessel would end a six-game goal drought in Game 5. Kessel proved him right by scoring and contributing two assists.

"Phil, coming from Toronto, he's so good when he plays in the playoffs," Malkin said.

Despite his goal drought, Kessel finished third in scoring in the playoffs with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists), behind Malkin and Crosby.

 

3. MATT MURRAY BOUNCED BACK

Matt Murray started his second NHL postseason strong after replacing goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the first period of Game 3 against the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Final. His starting role was questioned, however, after he allowed eight goals in Games 3 and 4 of the Cup Final.

With the best-of-7 series tied 2-2, Murray responded by making 24 saves in a shutout in Game 5 and 27 saves in a shutout in Game 6.

He is the first NHL goalie to win the Stanley Cup twice as a rookie.

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm6: Murray fights off Josi's wrister

 

4. JAKE GUENTZEL REMAINED HOT

Although Crosby stole the show, he couldn't have asked for more out of sidekick Jake Guentzel. The 22-year-old rookie left wing led the NHL with 13 goals, including four in the Cup Final.

His 13 goals are second-most by a rookie in the playoffs in NHL history, one behind the 14 scored by Dino Ciccarelli of the Minnesota North Stars in 1981, and his 21 points (13 goals, eight assists) tied Ciccarelli and Ville Leino of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 for most playoff points by a rookie.

After going eight straight games, including the entire conference final, without a goal, Guentzel scored four times in the first three games of the Cup Final. He had the winning goal in Games 1 and 2.

 

5. MIKE SULLIVAN PUSHED THE RIGHT BUTTONS

Since replacing Mike Johnston as coach on Dec. 12, 2015, Sullivan has never hesitated to make necessary adjustments.

After Pittsburgh scored one goal each in Games 3 and 4, he reunited Crosby with Guentzel and right wing Conor Sheary for Game 5. The line combined for five points (one goal, four assists), with Sheary scoring 1:19 into the second period.

Sullivan also could have gone back to Fleury but decided to stick with Murray, whose performance validated that decision.

"It's hard to express it in words how proud we are of this group of players," Sullivan said.

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