PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins posted a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday night at Consol Energy Center. The Penguins advance to the Stanley Cup finals to face the Western Conference-winning San Jose Sharks.
How it happened: Rookie contributions had a massive impact on the Penguins’ victory. Forward Bryan Rust scored two goals and created a few other quality chances, while goaltender Matt Murray allowed only one goal and finished with 16 saves, many of them timely. At the start of the season, Rust and Murray, along with coach Mike Sullivan and forwards Conor Sheary and Tom Kuhnhackl, were with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. On Thursday, they helped lead the parent club to victory and a trip to the Stanley Cup finals. Since the Penguins’ turnaround in December, Sullivan has been able to roll four lines, and the team’s depth has been critical to its success. That was on display again in Game 7. For the Lightning, even the return of captain Steven Stamkos couldn’t help Tampa Bay’s cause. It was his first game since March 31 because of a blood clot. His role was limited, but at least he gave it a bid and showed a desire to help his team at the most important time of the season. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was solid and finished with 37 saves.
What it means: The Penguins return to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since they won it in 2009. Pittsburgh will face the Sharks, beginning with Games 1 and 2 on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.