Thursday, May 25, 2017

Seventh Heaven for Kunitz, Penguins in Double OT

The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to the Stanley Cup final for the second consecutive year.

Chris Kunitz sent a fluttering one-timer past screened Senators netminder Craig Anderson at 5:09 if the second overtime to give the Penguins a 3-2 victory over the visiting Ottawa Senators.

The Penguins did it the hard way against an extremely resilient Senators team that twice battled back from one-goal deficits to force the extra sessions. After Kunitz gave Pittsburgh the lead at 9:55 of the second, Mark Stone answered 20 seconds later with his fifth goal of the playoffs and first of the series. Justin Schultz put the Penguins up 2-1 with a power play marker in at 11:44 of the third but less than three minutes later it was Ryan Dzingel who corraled a loose puck after Erik Karlsson's shot from the point rung the iron to level the Sens at 2-all.

Karlsson, who led all skaters with 39:33 of ice time, had two assists and finished his playoff season with two goals, 18 points and a plus-13.

The overtime was frantic, and Phil Kessel had a few golden opportunities to win it in the first extra session, but on one opportunity he missed the net from a point-blank shooting position and on the other he had a deflected rebound glance off his glove and just over the net.

Pittsburgh outshot the Senators 42 to 29, and 9 to 4 from the beginning of overtime.

Sidney Crosby, who finished the game with one shot on goal in 26:49, made the key play on Kunitz overtime winner. He corraled a puck below the Senators goal line before spinning away from Chris Wideman and setting up Kunitz with a tape-to-tape pass. Kunitz didn't get a clean shot off, but his fluttering one-timer had eyes and sailed right over the right shoulder of Anderson.

"Anderson was unbelievable," Crosby said after the game. "He was unbelievable the last few games, but especially tonight."

Ottawa dropped to 0-6 as a franchise in Game 7s with the loss. The Penguins improved to 10-7 in Game 7s and 4-7 at home.

The Penguins will be home at PPG Paints Arena on Monday night when they host the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Final.