Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box of the Pens’ 5-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.
The Pens had the start they wanted, totally overwhelming and dominating the Tampa Bay Lightning. But despite their best efforts, it appeared that the Lightning struck for a 1-0 lead five minutes into the game when Jonathan Drouin tapped the puck into an empty-net with goalie Matt Murray trapped out at sea. However, the Pens coaching staff challenged the goal, contesting that Drouin was offside on the play. After a review, it was deemed that Drouin was indeed offside as his back skate lifted off of the ice before the puck crossed the blue line. It was an alert call by Pens video coach Andy Saucier, who contacted the Pens bench and suggested they challenge the play. And what could have been a deflating, backbreaker to start the game instead was wiped out.
You need your biggest players to step up in the biggest games. It doesn’t get any bigger than an elimination game in the Eastern Conference Final. The Pens needed their big boys to deliver, and like FedEx, they did just that. Phil Kessel, the team’s current playoff MVP, connected for a power-play goal with just 1:14 to play in the first period. Then defensive leader Kris Letang scored his second of the postseason in the second period. That was followed up by a magnificent play by the captain. After a great backcheck by Patric Hornqivst freed the puck in the neutral zone, Sidney Crosby collected the puck, pivoted and blew past two Bolts players for a semi-break. He beat goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy through the five-hole for a 3-0 Pens advantage with just 25 seconds left in the second frame.
3. Murray’s Net
The Pens handed the net back over to 21-year-old rookie Matt Murray, who will turn 22 on Wednesday. Murray had a shaky start when the Bolts appeared to score first in the contest. However, the goal was disallowed as the play was offside. After that, Murray played brilliantly between the pipes. He was solid in his positioning, reading the play well and a step ahead of every shot. Murray gave the Pens the performance they needed from their netminder. Even in moments where the Bolts were surging, Murray remained cool, confident and calm. When there were breakdowns, Murray picked up his teammates, and he has carried them, and this series, into a decisive Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.