NASHVILLE — The winning goal wasn’t an oil painting.
But for the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was a thing of beauty.
The Penguins became the first repeat Stanley Cup champion in the salary cap era on Sunday night, thanks to Patric Hornqvist‘s goal with 95 seconds left for a 2-0 win over the Predators in Game 6.
Carl Hagelin‘s empty-netter with 14 seconds remaining sealed the deal. But the story of the game was Hornqvist’s tally, which was a weird one.
He was actually behind the goal line when he batted it in, knocking the puck off the back of Pekka Rinne‘s shoulder and into the net. The goal broke a breathless, exciting goalless game that seemed destined for overtime.
Prior to that, the two teams engaged in what was easily the best tilt of the series. And it wasn’t without drama. Nashville had a clear goal disallowed in the first period, when referee Kevin Pollock blew his whistle too early to nullify Colton Sissons‘ tally.
That one aside, there were chances aplenty, with both Rinne and Matt Murray standing on their heads at times. Rinne finished with 25 saves on 26 shots, while Murray stopped all 24 faced.
The biggest save may very well have come as the Predators were trying to cash in on a golden 5-on-3 power-play opportunity in the third period. As much as the Nashville fans wanted to rattle the 23-year-old with “Murr-ay” chants, he was clearly a huge difference-maker.
Not only was it his second consecutive shutout against Nashville, but he also made history as well. No goalie in NHL history has captured the Stanley Cup in each of his first two seasons.
Now, one has.
Heartbreak for the Predators
That disallowed goal was crushing enough. Failing to score on a 5-on-3 opportunity had to sting. As much as the Predators put on a brave face, they had just a bit more than a minute-and-a-half to shake off what would ultimately be the game-winning goal by former Predators winger Patric Hornqvist.
First-ever trips to the third round and Stanley Cup Final created unforgettable memories, yet the franchise has never experienced a brutal loss like this. They came two wins short of a championship and often carried the play against Pittsburgh, and the future could be bright … yet it’s tough to think about at a time like this.
Not when the Penguins are celebrating in front of their home crowd, something that’s becoming a bit of a tradition for Sidney Crosby‘s team.