Pittsburgh battled their way to a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. The Lightning’s goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy, proved to be a tough contender for the Penguins, with a total of 37 saves. Matt Murray made 16 saves for the Penguins.
Rookie Bryan Rust put the Penguins on the board 1:55 into the second period, with an assist pass from Chris Kunitz. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos had his first appearance on the ice since March 31 due to a blood clot.
At 9:36 into the second period, Jonathan Drouin tied it up 1-1 with a hard slap shot jetting past Murray. Just 30 seconds later, Rust would go on to score again for the Penguins making it 2-1. The puck bounced off the boards just behind Tampa Bay’s goal. In a pinball effect, it then hit the side of the net when Rust slipped it past Vasilevskiy’s left side just inches between him and the goal post.
“The big dream is still yet to be achieved,” Rust said. “I credit my linemates for elevating their game and helping me elevate mine. It just happens that I was the one who put the pucks in the net” said Rust in a statement to NHL.com.
Pittsburg lead the match in shots with 39, versus the Lightning’s 17. A scoreless third period resulted in Pittsburg winning the Eastern Conference title.
Penguin’s head coach Mike Sullivan said that his team “has evolved into a team in the true sense of the word.”
He said “we wanted to play in their face and in the gaps tight … I think we took the speed away that makes Tampa Bay so dangerous.”
The Penguins are moving on to the Stanley Cup Final series against the San Jose Sharks, which begins Monday at 8pm ET in Pittsburg. The Sharks will make their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in the teams history.