Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' Game 7 3-2 double overtime victory against Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Final at PPG Paints Arena…
*The Pens have defied the odds once again. Pittsburgh became the first team to win the Prince of Wales Trophy in back-to-back seasons since, well, the Penguins in 2008 and '09.
Pittsburgh will play in the Stanley Cup Final for the second consecutive year and has an opportunity to become the first NHL team to win back-to-back Cup titles since the Detroit Red Wings in 1996 and '97.
The double overtime victory was Pittsburgh's way of defying history. Pittsburgh was only 3-7 at home in a Game 7. To make matters worse, the Pens have never won a double overtime contest on home ice.
Pittsburgh bucked both of those trends tonight.
*Forward Chris Kunitz has been a Penguin for a long time, eight-plus seasons. But he will no doubt go down in Pens' folklore following his legendary Game 7 performance.
The 37-year-old scored 2 goals, including the decisive game-winner in double overtime, and figured in on all 3 Pittsburgh tallies in the contest.
Kunitz began the game working on the fourth line with Matt Cullen and Conor Sheary. In the second period he joined Sheary on a 2-on-1 rush and finished the play by giving Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.
Kunitz helped give the Pens a 2-1 lead while working the net-front on the power play in the third period. Kunitz, who did pick up an assist on the play, screened goaltender Craig Anderson while blueliner Justin Schultz snapped off a shot form the midpoint. Anderson looked to his right to see around Kunitz as the puck came hard from the left and into the netting.
But the play that will be seen in highlight reels for year to come was his overtime winning tally. Kunitz set himself up in the high slot and took a pass from Sidney Crosby. Kunitz whipped a shot toward the net that found its way through to end the series.
*What a gutsy effort by defenseman Justin Schultz. He missed the last four games with an upper-body injury and hadn't skated in the past few days. Schultz didn't even partake in the Pens' morning skate prior to Game 7.
But he took the ice for warmups and was in the lineup when the puck dropped with the entire season on the line.
And talk about clutch. Schultz, working in his usual spot on the team's top power play, snapped a shot that eluded Anderson to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead in the third period.
*The difference in this game was special teams. The Pens had only 1 power-play opportunity. That is not a typo. One single power play. And they made it count by converting. Meanwhile the Senators had 2 man-advantage chances, but failed to score on both.
The Pens finished a plus-1 in the special teams category. That 1 was the difference in the game.
*The Pens' victory was a testament to their patience. They completely dominated possession time and outshot the Senators, 42-29, in the contest. But instead of getting frustrated, sulking and letting it affect their play, they persevered.
Pittsburgh's biggest challenge will always be remaining patient against structured teams that have numbers in the neutral zone. The Pens passed that test tonight. And really, all season long.