Sidney Crosby helps Penguins beat Lightning to force Game 7
The Pittsburgh Penguins are headed home for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.
Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist, and Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series at three games.
Game 7 is Thursday night, with the Penguins hoping to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009 and the Lightning looking to advance to the Cup Final for the second straight year.
Crosby assisted on Kessel’s 5-on-3 power-play goal in the opening period and skated around Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman into the clear before sending a wrist shot between goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s legs for a 3-0 lead in the final minute of the second period.
Rookie goaltender Matt Murray returned to the lineup after being replaced as the starter for Game 5 by Marc-Andre Fleury, but his 10th playoff victory did not come without a bit of suspense.
Brian Boyle scored twice in the third period for Tampa Bay, with one of the goals bouncing off Kessel before getting past Murray, who finished with 28 saves. The second score drew the Lightning within one goal with 7:17 remaining.
Rust’s breakaway goal gave Pittsburgh breathing room and Bonino added an empty-netter to finish it off.
Kessel’s goal was his team-leading ninth of the playoffs. Crosby had the primary assist, his first point since delivering game-winners in Games 2 and 3, and Evgeni Malkin also had an assist to extend his point streak to four games after a slow start in the series.
The Lightning had an apparent goal by Jonathan Drouin waived off a little more than five minutes into the game, when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan successfully challenged that the young Tampa Bay winger was offside on the play before tapping in a rebound off Ondrej Palat’s shot that bounced off Murray’s pads.
Sullivan announced the decision to go back to Murray following Tuesday’s morning skate, with the Penguins facing elimination for the first time this postseason.
Murray started the first four games of the series. Fleury replaced him during the third period of Game 4, then made his first start in nearly two months in Game 5, which Tampa Bay won 4-3 in overtime.
Sullivan said he was switching back to Murray because “just like we make all our lineup decisions, we try to put players on the ice that we think give us the best chance to win.”
Before Game 5, Fleury had not started a game since March 31, when he suffered a concussion.
Tampa Bay entered the game determined to not come out flat in Game 6 of the conference final for the second straight year.
The Lightning beat the New York Rangers on the road to go up 3-2 in that series, but were badly outplayed at home the next game and had to return to Madison Square Garden to finish the series.
Now, they’ll have to win on the road again to make the third Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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