(Reuters) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will once again have to claim an extra piece of baggage when they return home with the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup following a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
After failing to clinch the title at home on Thursday, the Penguins returned to San Jose with a 3-2 series lead and used a clinical display of hockey to ensure the championship would not require a decisive seventh game.
It marked the fourth time in franchise history that the Penguins won the coveted Stanley Cup but just like the previous three (1991, 1992 and 2009) they had to celebrate on the road.
Captain Sidney Crosby had two assists in the championship-clinching game, including one on Kris Letang’s game-winning goal, and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I wasn’t really thinking about ’09 that much, I was just thinking about how hard it was to get to this point and just trying to enjoy every second of it,” said Crosby.
“It’s not easy to get here and having won seven years ago at a young age you probably take it for granted a little bit. You don’t think you do at the time.”
The fact that the Cup clincher came on the road did not dull the party as Penguins players charged off the bench and mobbed rookie goalie Matt Murray while throwing their gloves and sticks into the air in a wild and boyish celebration.
Murray made 18 saves and only faced two shots in the third period. His 15 playoff wins by a rookie equals a Stanley Cup playoffs record.
As captain, Crosby was first to hoist the Cup and then passed it off to injured teammate Trevor Daley, who had been knocked out of the playoffs with a broken ankle.
In the stands, owner Mario Lemieux, who won two Stanley Cups as a player during a Hall of Fame career with Pittsburgh, celebrated with hugs all around.
“They were incredible the whole playoffs,” said Lemieux. “To come in here after losing a tough game at home to play the way we did was incredible.
“It’s been a long season but now we can enjoy it.
“I get really nervous up there (in the stands) but it’s been a good ride.”
The Penguins did well to settle their owner’s nerves early by opening the scoring near the midway mark of the first period when Brian Dumoulin’s shot from the point on the powerplay fooled Sharks goalie Martin Jones.
Jones, however, was not rattled and made sparkling saves on Crosby and Conor Sheary to keep the Penguins from extending their lead.
It marked the fifth time in six games Pittsburgh had drawn first blood as the Sharks, who had four shots in the opening frame, once again had difficulty generating scoring chances.
The Sharks came out with more urgency in the second and fired four shots at the Penguins goal in the opening three minutes.
Their efforts were rewarded when Logan Couture extended his playoff scoring lead when he snapped the puck between Murray’s pads. But the joy inside the SAP Center was short-lived as Letang answered 79 seconds later to restore the Penguins lead.
With the Stanley Cup in the building and the champagne on ice, it was the Penguins who came out with desperation in the third and limited the Sharks to two shots while Patric Hornqvist sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 62 seconds to play.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)