Four months since his last goal, Chris Kunitz scored twice, including 5:09 into double overtime, to send the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup Final for a second straight year with a 3-2 win in Thursday’s epic double-overtime win against the Senators.
In an Eastern Conference finals that tested every ounce of winning will remaining in the defending champions, it’s especially fitting Kunitz, the 37-year-old veteran, did the honors.
And somehow, some way, the Penguins, injured and exhausted, having played more games in two years than any other NHL team, found a way to edge the never-say-die Sens in their 207th game since the start of the 2015-16 season. They’re the first to make back-to-back trips since the Red Wings in 2007-09.
Pittsburgh led by a goal on two occasions in Game 7, first thanks to Kunitz in the second period and again when Justin Schultz scored on a power play with just under nine minutes remaining in regulation that figured to be the decider.
In the second period, when Nashville won the shot battle 11-0, Pittsburgh became the first team to go without a shot on goal in a Cup Final period since the NHL started tracking shots in 1957-58. The Pens’ 12 total shots, a franchise record low, were the fewest by a winning team in Final history.
Pittsburgh got its 3-0 lead thanks to three goals in the final 4:28 of the first period. Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary and Bonino did the honors.
Eventually a catfish found its way to the ice, despite Pittsburgh’s fishy ban. That led to Ryan Ellis’ fifth goal of the playoffs moments later and Colton Sissons made it 3-2 10:06 into the third period before Gaudreau evened the ledger.