It takes 16 wins to capture the Stanley Cup.
The Pens now have 13 wins thanks to their 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks at CONSOL Energy Center Monday night.
As per ritual all season long, following each win the Pens handed out a Viking helmet to the game’s most valuable player.
Fittingly, that helmet went to Nick Bonino tonight for scoring the game-winning goal with 2:33 left in the contest.
Too bad Bonino couldn’t have – Mean Girls style – broke the helmet into pieces and spread it out because there were many deserving recipients.
Bryan Rust scored the game’s opening goal 12:46 into the first period. That was followed by Conor Sheary’s goal just 62 seconds later to give the Pens a 2-0 lead.
And even after the Sharks tied the game at 2-2, it was goaltender Matt Murray that slammed the door with a 24-save effort. The 22-year-old rookie sensation stopped all nine shots he faced in the third period.
But the biggest chunk belongs to the Penguins hockey operations and scouting departments. It was, after all, the homegrown talent that made the difference in this game.
The behind-the-scenes work of people like director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton and his scouts that put in years worth of work detailing every attribute and characteristic of young players. Then building the boards and making the selections that they think will best suit the team.
The work of player development coach Mark Recchi, defenseman development coach Sergei Gonchar and goalie development coach Mike Buckley, who worked with players in the system to fine-tune and improve their games at every level.
The work of former and current Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coaches like Mike Sullivan, Jay Leach, John Hynes, Alain Nasreddine and Clark Donatelli, who work with the players on the American Hockey League level. They help the players transfer from the amateur game into the professional game. They prepare them for the challenges ahead and mold them into National Hockey League players.
The work of associate general manager Jason Botterill, assistant general manager Bill Guerin and vice president of hockey operations Jason Karmanos, who oversee the entire operation.
Rust, Sheary and Murray all played a major role in the Game 1 victory and in the Pens’ quest for the Cup during the entire postseason.
Sheary has chipped in with timely goals, and his speed has been a great compliment on a line with Sidney Crosby. He was signed to an American Hockey League contract by the Pens as an undrafted free agent because management saw the potential in his play. After leading the team in scoring, he was signed to a two-way contract. Sheary made his NHL debut this season, and established himself as a National Hockey League player.
Rust (third round, 80th overall, 2010 draft) posted two-career two-goal games in the postseason, both of which were in elimination games. He notched two goals against the NY Rangers in Game 5 to eliminate New York in the First Round. He then posted two goals in the dramatic Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final to put the Pens into their third Stanley Cup Final in nine seasons.
Murray (3rd round, 83rd overall, 2012 draft) rewrote the AHL record books last season, and now he’s rewriting the record books in the NHL. He became just the sixth rookie goalie in NHL history to lead his team to a Stanley Cup Final. Along the way, he became the youngest goaltender in Pens’ history to start a game at 21 years, 330 days.
Those are just three of many storylines surrounding the Pens’ magical Cup run. But they didn’t get to where they are by accident. And they didn’t get to where they are by themselves.
It took an entire organization to build this team. And now that organization is three wins away from its ultimate goal.