March of the Penguins ends with fourth Stanley Cup
Updated: 2016-06-14 07:57
By Associated Press in San Jose, California(China Daily)
Crosby named playoff MVP as Pittsburgh vanquishes San Jose
Sidney Crosby let out a triumphant yell as he hoisted the Stanley Cup, then he broke into a wide smile.
The seven years of adversity since the 28-year-old Canadian last held the oldest trophy in North American pro sports were firmly in his past.
The Pittsburgh Penguins surround captain Sidney Crosby in posing with the Stanley Cup after beating the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in San Jose, California, on Sunday night. The Penguins won the best-of-seven championship series 4-2. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
The concussions that nearly derailed his career. The early playoff exits. The rough start to this season that led to a coach being fired.
Crosby and the Penguins are once again champions.
A kid no more and surrounded with new talent, Crosby set up both Kris Letang's go-ahead goal midway through the second period and Patric Norqvist's late clincher into an empty net as Pittsburgh won its fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history by beating the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in Game 6 on Sunday night.
This title had been a long time coming.
"I was just thinking about how hard it was to get to this point, just trying to enjoy every second of it," said Crosby, who the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs.
"It's not easy to get here. Having won seven years ago at a young age, you probably take it for granted a bit. You don't think so at the time, but it's not easy to get to this point."
Brian Dumoulin opened the scoring with a powerplay goal for Pittsburgh while Matt Murray made 18 saves to give the Penguins the Cup seven years to the day after they beat Detroit for their third title.
"Sid's a special player for a reason," teammate Chris Kunitz said. "He can adapt and change his game to different things.
"Early in his career he went out and got points and did everything else, but that didn't make him satisfied. He had to go out and lead by example and he became a better player that way."
Three nights after squandering a chance to become the first Pittsburgh sports team to win a title in front of home fans in 56 years, the Penguins finished the job on the road just like they did in Minnesota (1991), Chicago (1992) and Detroit (2009) in past title runs.
The championship in Detroit was supposed to be the first of many for a team led by players like Crosby and Russian star Evgeni Malkin, but a series of concussions cost Crosby almost an entire season and a half.
Then there was a string of playoff disappointments that included twice blowing 3-1 series leads.
There was no second celebration in the Crosby era - until now.
"It's so hard to win it year after year," said team owner and former Penguins superstar Mario Lemieux, who won back-to-back titles and Conn Smythe trophies.
"For them to be able to come through this year and win their second Cup is big. Hopefully there's a few more for them."
This didn't seem like it would be a season to remember back in early December when the Penguins were near the bottom of the standings in the Eastern Conference and coach Mike Johnston was fired.
But led by coach Mike Sullivan, the Penguins recovered to make the playoffs as the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division after some shrewd moves by general manager Jim Rutherford, who put together the 'HBK line' of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel over the past year as well as other key acquisitions.
Pittsburgh knocked off the New York Rangers in the first round, the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in round two and then rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in a grueling Eastern Conference final.
"In the playoffs, suddenly we thought we could beat any team," Malkin said. "We tried to play the same game we played in 2009."
The Penguins were in control for almost the entire final.
They did not trail until Game 5 at home and responded to a strong push from San Jose in the clincher to avoid a decisive seventh game.
Pittsburgh held San Jose to just one shot on goal in the first 19 minutes of the third period to preserve the one-goal lead. It was sealed when Crosby blocked a shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic that set up Hornqvist's empty-netter.
"You dream your whole life about this," said Kessel, the former Toronto Maple Leaf who led the Penguins with 22 playoff points.
"How can you ask for anything better than this? Winning the Cup is what your dream of and what you play for."
Logan Couture scored the lone goal for the Sharks, who were making their first trip to the final in their 25-year history.
Martin Jones made 24 saves and was San Jose's best player for the series.
"The end is like hitting a wall," coach Peter DeBoer said. "But only one team can win."
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