The Eastern Conference final is going the distance.
Sidney Crosby’s beautiful second-period goal held up as the winner in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6. Crosby has scored the winning goal in all three of the Penguins wins in the series.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 25, 2016
On Tuesday, his winner came on a great individual effort as he got the puck in the neutral zone, danced through the Lightning defense and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The goal made it 3-0 and the Penguins seemed to be cruising. But Brian Boyle scored twice early in the third period make things interesting. Just as Penguins fans were getting nervous, Bryant Rust scored on a breakaway late to put the game out of reach.
The complexion of the game, and indeed the series, could have changed dramatically if a Lightning goal wasn’t called back early in the first period. A Jonathan Drouin goal five minutes into the game was called back after the Penguins challenged. Drouin was ruled offside on the play, thanks to the now-controversial ruling that his skate was in the zone despite it being in the air.
Phil Kessel scored his ninth goal of the playoffs on a power play later in the first after the Lightning were penalized for the dreaded puck-over-glass delay of game and the Pens were on their way to the win.
It was the second year in a row the Lighting failed to win Game 6 of the East final at home. Last year, they rebounded to beat the Rangers in Game 7 and advance to the Stanley Cup final. The Penguins present a more formidable challenge.
There shouldn’t be a goaltending controversy after the Penguins wisely went back to youngster Matt Murray for Game 6. He was solid, making 28 saves and leaving no doubt he should be the man for the Penguins the rest of the way.
While it would make a great narrative don’t expect injured Lightning stars Steven Stamkos or Ben Bishop to ride in to save the day in Game 7. Both players have been skating and improving but won’t be ready for Thursday.