The Penguins skated to a 2-1 series-clinching win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night at CONSOL Energy Center to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009, where they will have home-ice advantage over the San Jose Sharks. Here's the reaction from the locker room after the biggest win in their building's history.
MIKE SULLIVAN On how proud he is of the way his team responded and dominated: "I can't even explain to you how excited I am for the group we have and how proud I am of them for how hard we play for each other. You know, I've been in the game a long time, and you don't always get associated with a group that has the chemistry this group has, and when you do, it's something special. I believe that we have evolved into a team in the true sense of the word, and I thought tonight it was on display."
SIDNEY CROSBY On what was going through his mind during the final minute, trophy ceremony and into now: "I think just nerves, excited. You know, it’s not easy. Having gone through a couple of those early on, 20 and 21 years old playing in the Finals, I think you get more of an appreciation for it now. And just love the opportunity to be able to get back."
On how proud he is of the group after everything they've gone through: "It hasn’t been easy. I think that that’s probably been a big reason why we’ve been able to get to this point is having gone through that and built that trust. I think that we found a lot of momentum there in March and just built off of that. We’ve continued to get better. 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. We know the biggest challenge is ahead of us here, but we’ve got a great opportunity. It wasn't easy getting to this point, so it’d be great to finish it off the right way."
PHIL KESSEL On if he imagined himself being here 12 months ago: "I don’t think you can dream about that, obviously. You never expect this, and this is a huge moment in my career and my life. And I don’t even know what to say, I’m so excited."
EVGENI MALKIN On how it feels to be returning to the Stanley Cup Final: "Of course I’m a little bit tired, but of course I feel great. I mean, it’s a long time since we have played in the Final. But it’s a great moment, and most guys have never won a Stanley Cup. We have young guys and guys who have won. We have both. It’s Stanley Cup-experienced guys and the young guys who haven’t won and are hungry. And I think we did a great job all year, and I can’t wait for the Final."
KRIS LETANG On what it means to get back: "It’s huge. It’s the ultimate goal. I can’t say anything more than that. We have a chance to do something great and to be remembered."
On keeping composure: "I think you look at the focus that we had. There’s nobody that was going to get us off our game. You saw we were leading by one and they scored a big goal, and we went right back. We didn’t stop, and I think that was our best 60-minute game all year."
PATRIC HORNQVIST On the last ten minutes of Game 7: "I think obviously the last 50 seconds or something everybody’s standing up, and then you just hope to see the zero on the scoreboard and the clock there. We did a good job. We won faceoffs when we needed to win faceoffs. And we got the puck there the last 10 seconds. I can’t tell how proud I am of these guys. We always find a way to win, but we’re not done yet. We have the biggest series here in front of us and just enjoy this here tonight and go back at it again tomorrow."
MATT MURRAY On if that third period compares to anything he’s been through in his hockey career: "Probably not, no. This is my first time going through something like this, so a lot of new experiences. But I’ve said it all along, I’m just trying to enjoy myself and stay in the moment and appreciate the moment. And just trying to have fun. That third period was some of the most fun I’ve had playing hockey. It’s an exciting environment. So yeah, I had a lot of fun."
CARL HAGELIN On going back to the Stanley Cup Final after losing in 2014 with the Rangers: "It means a lot. That’s why we play the game. Obviously it’s been a bit of everything this year for me, getting traded and coming to a team that wasn’t playing at their best. But we found a way to get into playoffs, and it’d be unreal to get the Cup."
MATT CULLEN On how they dominated: "It was really big that we played so well. I thought that these last two games where we’re facing elimination and (had our) backs against the wall, I thought that those were our best two games. And I think that speaks volumes about the character, and it’s a pretty determined group. By no means do we feel like we’re finished, but we’re really proud of what we did here. That’s an awfully tough team to beat."
BEN LOVEJOY: On what helped them to victory: "We feel that when we’re playing how we’re capable of for 60 minutes, we’re a really tough team to beat. And going into that game tonight all we talked about was being smart. We wanted to be smart for 60 minutes because that Tampa team doesn’t need 40 shots to score four goals. They need two three opportunities to win a game, and we wanted to be perfect for 60 against them. And we weren’t perfect, but we were close."
BRIAN DUMOULIN On what he liked the most about the win: "It was awesome. I mean, these last two games it was the first time we faced elimination, and we proved to ourselves that I mean when we’re down we can keep climbing. We’ve done that all season long, and we’re not done yet."
CONOR SHEARY On how this feels: "I think when you play the right way we deserve to be this far. I think we have a really good team in this room, and we all believe in ourselves. It just feels right."
CHRIS KUNITZ On if these last two games are what we should expect in the future from the Pens: "If we expect to beat a team like San Jose I think so. We have to play that speed. We have to play with pace. We have to keep guys on pucks, keep that energy. If we sit back obviously good things don’t happen. We’ll take some time here. We’ll get the scouting report from San Jose and understand what we need to do and accomplish. And if we can get to that game plan, I think we’ll have success."
IAN COLE: On the San Jose Sharks: "The Sharks are a team that I got to play a lot. I was in the Western Conference for five years. They’re a team that they have a lot of team speed just like us, but they’re big, they’re strong, they have skill. Those big guys have skill. So they’re going to be a challenge. So I think the ability to transition quickly and obviously try to force those guys to the outside is going to be huge."