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Penguins travel to championship

Flynn Travers, Staff Writer

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will once again be dancing with Lord Stanley after an instant classic Game 7 against the Ottawa Senators at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday.

The win was the second Game 7 victory in a row in these playoffs for the Penguins.

The teams played a tight first period, with the Penguins owning most of the time on attack. Both goalies kept their teams even through one.

The first goal was scored in the second period when a rejuvenated Conor Sheary backhanded a puck under the stick of Erik Karlsson and Chris Kunitz put the puck behind goalie Craig Anderson. This was Sheary’s first game back after being a healthy scratch in Game 6.

The lead did not last more than 20 seconds, though, because Mark Stone went short side on Matt Murray with the Penguin fans still celebrating the Kunitz goal.

The atmosphere in PPG Paints Arena was silent and tense for the rest of the second, with fans getting more nervous and thinking that this magical run might be coming to an end against the pesky Senators.

The Penguins, as they have for the whole Mike Sullivan era, responded tremendously and it looked inevitable that a goal was coming.

The Penguins received their first and only power play of the game at 11:19 of the third period. They would only need 25 seconds to score. Justin Schultz, returning for the first game from an upper body injury, scored from the point and the roof came off the building.

However, the Senators responded once again, scoring almost three minutes later when Ryan Dzingel scored as the puck came off the post from an Erik Karlsson shot and ended up right on to his stick. The Senators, proving everybody wrong, were tied with the injury-riddled defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

However, the Penguins did not seem rattled as the game went to overtime. They came out flying and controlled play for most of both overtimes. Only fans in the stands seemed to think the Penguins were going to lose this game.

Chris Kunitz ended the Senators’ season in double overtime on a pass from Sidney Crosby. The Pens won the Eastern Conference Final and would be advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for back-to-back years – just as they had during the 1991 and 1992 seasons and the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

The Penguins showed the new-found resiliency that they have showed under Mike Sullivan. Sullivan has turned the Penguins from a team that could not handle the high-pressure situations to a team that thrives under them.

The two Game 7 victories this year were the exact types of games that the Pens would have had no chance to win two years ago.

The old Penguins, who blew a 3-1 lead to the New York Rangers in 2014 or the Penguins who were swept by the Boston Bruins in 2013 in the Eastern Conference Finals, are gone. The Mike Sullivan era is here and it is exactly what superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin deserve: A winning attitude that the Penguins lacked under Dan Bylsma and Mike Johnston and that has been found by Mike Sullivan.

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Penguins travel to championship