By Kim Dunning
It was Game 7 and no matter who won the game, handshakes were going to happen at the end of the game. A game with more pressure on the Lightning than on the Pittsburgh Penguins, as the Lightning went to the Stanley Cup Finals just last year and the Penguins weren’t even expected to make a playoff run this year. Game 7 is a time for hockey teams to unleash it all. All the star players would see a lot of ice time. It is no holds bar. It’s do or die time. In a twist of fate, tonight’s Game 7 became the night of returns and the rookies.
Tonight was the night of rookies. At the start of the game, the Lightning announced that captain Steven Stamkos would start tonight for the first time in almost two months. Stamkos was recovering from surgery from a blood clot in his shoulder. This was a worry for Pens fans as that could have been a huge momentum changer for the Lightning.
The Pens were able to win this game for the simple fact that they kept the Lightning locked in their own zone. The Lightning had a mere 17 shots on goal against Penguins rookie goal-tender Matt Murray. The Pens on the other hand had 39 shots on goal against the other rookie goal-tender for the Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Penguins would always find a way out of their defensive zone and keep the pressure on the Lightning by continuing to pepper the goal. The first period ended in a very exciting 0-0 tie. When a game starts out that way, you know it’s going to be a wild finish.
After coming out in the second period, the Pens finally got their goal from rookie Bryan Rust. Shortly after Lightning’s rookie Jonathan Drouin, who came up to replace Stamkos while he was injured, scored the Lightning’s first and what was to be their only goal. Thirty seconds later, Rust scored what would be the game winning goal on a long change by the Lightning.
The third period was exciting if you were not a fan of either team. Everyone came out to play and although no goals were scored, the action was unending from the start to the very last seconds, when the Penguins laid on the puck to let the final seconds expire.
Although no goals were scored by veterans Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Malkin played a huge part in the Penguins winning the game. There were times it felt like there was more than one 71 on the ice. Malkin, if there was an MVP of the Eastern Conference Final, would have been that for his stellar play. Malkin truly kept the Penguins in this game and in Game 6.
The Stanley Cup Finals start on Monday, when the Penguins and the San Jose Sharks square off. Knowing what the Pens have overcome to get just this far, it should make for another exciting series.
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