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Rust scores 2 as Penguins win Game 7, move on

PITTSBURGH -- Bryan Rust scored both Pittsburgh goals and the Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 Thursday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, sending a team driven equally by stars and rookies to its first Stanley Cup finals ...

PITTSBURGH - Bryan Rust scored both Pittsburgh goals and the Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 Thursday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, sending a team driven equally by stars and rookies to its first Stanley Cup finals in seven years.
The Penguins dominated in shots and scoring chances and, aided by the steady-as-he-goes play of rookie goalie Matt Murray, finished off a comeback from a 3-2 series deficit to deny the Lightning a return trip to the finals.
Pittsburgh, still featuring holdover stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin from its 2009 Stanley Cup-winning team, will play host to the San Jose Sharks in the Game 1 of the finals Monday. The Penguins will be playing in their fifth finals - they won three of the first four - and the Sharks will be in their first.
Riding the momentum of their 5-2 win in Tampa in Game 6 on Tuesday, the Penguins dominated the offensive zone play in the first two periods, then held off a Tampa Bay push early in the third to end a three-game losing streak in Game 7s. They relied throughout on Murray, who is 11-4 in the postseason after being expected early on in the playoffs to play only a few games.
In only the sixth Game 7 matchup ever of rookie goalies, Andrei Vasilevskiy made the more spectacular saves - and far more saves overall, 37 to Murray’s 16 - yet the Lightning never effectively solved Murray, who was benched for Game 5 but came back to give up only three goals combined in Games 6 and 7. Murray was one of seven Penguins first-timers playing in their initial Game 7.
The Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy with just over a minute left to create a 6-on-5, but still couldn’t get the tying goal. Only Jonathan Drouin, also a rookie, found the net, but the Penguins still won a Game 7 on home ice for only the third time in 10 tries.
Tampa Bay got an emotional lift from the surprise return of captain Steven Stamkos, who played for the first time since March 31 after developing a blood clot near his neck. But his playing time was minimal in the first two periods - he played only 1:58 in the second - and his on-ice impact was minimal.
Rust’s impact was not, in this game or on a team that is faster and younger even than the Crosby/Malkin championship team of 2009, when the two stars were in their early 20s.
After a scoreless first period in which shots and scoring opportunities were sparse for both teams, everything changed in the second period, when Rust scored both of his goals.
Rust beat Vasilevskiy after being left alone above the circles at 1:55. Pittsburgh took advantage of an on-the-fly Lightning line change as defenseman Olli Maatta threw the puck up ice to Evgeni Malkin, leading to Chris Kunitz’s pass from along the boards to Rust.
Drouin managed to tie it midway through the period with his fifth goal of the playoffs, one more than he had during the regular season.
Drouin skated the puck into the Penguins zone and, rather than passing to one of a couple of teammates, skated into the middle and shot the puck under the crossbar to Murray’s glove side at 9:36.
But Rust answered only 30 seconds later with his fifth - like Drouin, one more than he had during the season. Defenseman Ben Lovejoy took a shot off the end boards that deflected toward the net, but Vasilevskiy failed to cover the puck and Rust jammed it into an inches-wide opening between the goalie’s left leg pad and the net.

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