For the first time since 1998, and for the first time since the institution of the Salary Cap after the bitter 2004-2005 lockout, the National Hockey League has a repeat Stanley Cup Champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins defeating the Nashville Predators last night in the clinching Game 6. With their repeat effort, the Penguins also become the second team to beat two first-time finalists in a row since the 1981-1983 New York Islanders who beat three consecutive first-time finalists in the 1981 Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars), the 1982 Vancouver Canucks, and the 1983 Edmonton Oilers. In addition to that bit of trivia, Matt Murray now holds the unusual distinction of winning two Stanley Cups as a rookie goaltender (due to eligibility rules).
Beyond the history, on the ice it was a tense contest with the first goal not being scored by Pittsburgh until Patric Hornqvist, who spent the first six seasons of his career in Nashville, got a puck past a sharp Pekka Rinne with just ninety-five seconds left in regulation, (Carl Hagelin added an empty net tally to seal the deal) much to the chagrin of the hometown faithful. The reason for their ire is not just that this lost them the game but at the 18:54 mark of the second period Nashville had a goal denied them by an early whistle after a referee erroneously thought the puck was controlled by Murray. However before the tinfoil hat brigade suggests a conspiracy, Nashville had four power plays to Pittsburgh’s zero, including a 5 on 3 advantage which they could not convert on. For the second consecutive season, Sidney Crosby was wrongfully named Conn Smythe Award winner, despite superior performance by his teammates including Jake Guentzel who tied several rookie records this postseason. Overall, however, it was an excellent season for both Nashville and Pittsburgh who are sure to be in the mix for the Stanley Cup next year.