Mr. Elimination Upstages Mr. Game 7by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins
Move over, Mr. Game 7. Introducing Mr. Elimination.
Bryan Rust scored his eighth goal in an elimination contest as his Pens defeated the President's Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in Game 7, 2-0, at Verizon Center Wednesday night to advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight year.
"There were definitely some heart attack moments out there on both sides," said Rust, who has 12 points in 12-career playoff elimination games. "Each goalie made some really good saves and we were able to capitalize."
Speaking of the Eastern Conference Final, last season in that same round Rust was again the hero as he posted both of Pittsburgh's goals in a 2-0 win against Tampa Bay that thrust Pittsburgh into the Stanley Cup Final.
The kid just has a knack for playing his best when the Pens smell blood.
Rust has three career two-goal games in the playoffs - and all three of those games were elimination contests. There is the aforementioned contest against Tampa Bay, but he also notched two goals in series clinching Game 5s against the NY Rangers in 2016 and last round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Rust became the first player since Jeremy Roenick (1990-92) to have his first three career two-goal playoff games come in clinchers.
Rust scored at 8:49 of the second period after receiving a nice cross-ice feed from rookie Jake Guentzel. Rust went rooftop on the tally to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead it would never lose.
"At first I thought (Sidney Crosby) and Guentzel were going to make a really nice tic-tac-toe play," Rust said. "Then Guentzy just held onto it and made a really good pass to me and I was able to finish."
That goal would stand to be the game-winner for the Pens. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury did the rest by stopping all 29 shots he faced to record his ninth career playoff shutout. That includes keeping the Capitals' Mr. Game 7 - Justin Williams - scoreless in his first career Game 7 defeat (he is now 7-1 in Game 7s).
But more importantly, Rust's goal gave the Pens a spark of life that they desperately needed after back-to-back disappointing losses to the Caps that led to the decisive Game 7 showdown.
"It gave us life. It gave us momentum, especially after losing two games," Rust said. "To be able to grab that lead and play our game better than we have been gave our bench a lot of confidence. We just kept getting better from there."