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Game 6 Recap: Crosby leads Pens to 5-2 win to force Game 7

The Pittsburgh Penguins hold on to win 5-2 in Game 6 in a crazy game where they come out strong. Crosby, Letang and Murray are great and there's now a Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Thursday. See the highlights here!

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Eastern Conference Finals Game 6, Pittsburgh Penguins @ Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lineups

Matt Murray gets back into the net and Marc-Andre Fleury is on the bench. Conor Sheary not only returns to the lineup after a 1 game stint of healthy-scratchedness but slots back in on the first line. After his 2016 playoff debut, Beau Bennett returns to the press box.

Tampa sticks with their familiar and unusual 11 forward / 7 defenseman lineup that they've used for the majority of the series.

The Highlights

First Period

After a pretty quiet opening start, Tampa scores when Jonathan Drouin beats Murray after a nice play by Victor Hedman. But upon further video review, Drouin was off-sides, so the goal doesn't count. Good challenge by the Pens.

Later in the period the Penguins score a goal that counts when on a 5v3 power play Malkin feeds Sidney Crosby who makes a cross-ice pass to Phil Kessel . The puck rolls on Crosby at the last minute, but Kessel is still able to bat at it from mid-air and put it past Andrei Vasilevskiy to make it 1-0.

Shots were 14-4 Penguins. Attempts were 28-14 Pens. The biggest one for Tampa didn't end up counting.

Second Period

Pens come out flying in the 2nd, Kris Letang puts a puck on net that Sheary tips but right into the post. So close, yet so far.

The Pens do make it 2-0 later after a series of smart decisions. First Nick Bonino doesn't dump the puck at the end of a really long shift and instead dishes over to Sheary. Sheary pulls up and gives it back to Letang. Letang uses a great Patric Hornqvist screen to blow a shot by Vasilevskiy.

With time winding down in the 3rd, Crosby beasts up and blows through Ondrej Palat and dips around Stralman, getting in all alone and snapping a puck 5-hole before Hedman can harass him in order to make it 3-0. About the most Mario Lemieux-esque goal you could hope to see with the way the game is in 2016.

Third Period

Phil Kessel scores which is usually a good thing, but not this time because it came off of a Brian Boyle centering pass in the Pittsburgh zone. Whoops. Now a 3-1.

Tampa turning on the heat now, Boyle collects a bouncing puck and puts a great snipe to the top corner of the net, with Murray distracted a little by the momentum of Cullen going into him. Shit, it happens. 3-2.

With all the pressure adding up, Chris Kunitz makes a great pass up to Bryan Rust who uses his speed for a breakaway and then makes his great forehand deke to pretty much salt the game away at 4-2 with a nice job tucking the puck in past the leg of the goalie.

Nick Bonino tacks on the empty netter for a 5-2 final score.

Some Thoughts

  • The linesmen threw Matt Cullen out of the faceoff circle 3 times in the first period alone. Whatever happened to veteran privilege?
  • Malkin took a retaliatory slashing penalty in the first period, which is really easy to call needless and stupid when you're sitting behind a keyboard and didn't get cracked yourself a heartbeat earlier by Ryan Callahan. Of course, NHL logic dictates that only the retaliation for a penalty for the most time, for unknown reasons.
  • In "continue to pile on the refs" bullets, didn't like the penalty on Anton Stralman in the first either. Stralman stepped up and cracked Tom Kuhnhackl big, heavy and clean in the middle of the ice when Kuhnhackl was looking back to try and collect a pass. The pass was slightly off the mark, but there's no way for Stralman to know that in real-time. Just as they should have called Callahan, would have liked to see them let that one go.
  • Crosby and Malkin played like stars that didn't want to have their final game tonight.
  • Hockey is such a game of inches; it's easy to imagine that if Drouin wasn't slightly off-side this game breaks a whole different way. That said, Pittsburgh maintained composure and Murray looked better as the game went on, but he wasn't asked to do a lot as the Pens continued to shell Vasilevskiy.
  • And for the "stars need to shine" crowd, tonight's early goals were scored by Kessel, Letang and Crosby. With Malkin earning an assist and looking very visibly dangerous with 3 shots on goal and 2 official takeaways.
  • Nice play by Hornqvist to disrupt the Tampa breakout that led to Crosby collecting the puck and going HAM for the 3-0 lead. Between that and the screen on the Letang goal, just a couple tangible examples of the little things that help teams win and the type of things that Hornqvist does consistently.
  • Huge push by Tampa, who remains a dangerous team when they wake up and play strong. Could the Pens have been more aggressive? Maybe but that's easy to say. Tough to dominate for 60 minutes, have to weather a storm sooner or later this deep in the playoffs. The Pens found a way.

The bounces were crazy tonight, with several close-calls, but the Penguins found a way to come out on top. Now it all boils down to one more game and anything can happen. With a chance for the Stanley Cup Finals on the line. You can't ask for anything more than that as a fan. Buckle up and get ready for Thursday night.