PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Just a year after Pittsburgh’s fourth Stanley Cup win in 2016, Patric Hörnqvist tipped a puck off the elbow of the Nashville Predator’s goalie as the clock wound down in the third period of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to give Pittsburgh its second straight championship.
Pittsburgh became the first team to have back-to-back championship wins in the salary cap era and the first to repeat since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.
The 2016-17 season started with a repeat championship in the cards for the Penguins, but it was widely considered to be improbable despite a nearly unchanged roster. With history against them to defend the title, the Penguins made goalie Matt Murray their official starter and went to work.
As the regular season drew to a close, the Penguins were again in the playoffs and facing the Nashville Predators. Evgeni Malkin led the playoffs with the most points, barely edging out his teammate Crosby and forming a dangerous partnership, with rookie Jake Guentzel stepping up to make it a trio.
The Predators played well at home and after four games the series was tied. But then Nashville couldn’t get the puck past Murray, who played shut out after shut out to give the Penguins their last two wins.
Ironically, it would be Hörnqvist who clinched the last goal from Nashville, just a couple years after they traded him to Pittsburgh. He had been Nashville’s draft pick in 2005, the same year the Penguins drafted Sidney Crosby. Crosby had been the first pick in the first round; Hörnqvist was picked last in the last round (seventh).
Team Captain Sidney Crosby also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player for the second straight season. The only other players with that record are Mario Lemieux (1991, 1992 Penguins) and Bernie Parent (1974, 1975 Philadelphia Flyers).
The Stanley Cup win is not just the fifth win for the team, but also the fifth win for team owner, Mario Lemieux. Lemieux won two as a player and 2017 was his third win as team owner.
Even in the City of Champions, winning back-to-back titles is cause for record-setting celebration. After their 2016 Stanley Cup win, the Penguins victory parade through downtown Pittsburgh attracted an estimated 400,000 fans. The 2016 victory lap of downtown held the record for the largest championship parade crowd in city history, but only for one year.
When the 2017 Stanley Cup Champions started their roll down Grant Street, an estimated 650,000 fans lined the streets and burst from every window along the route, shattering the prior year’s record.
The players smiled and chugged beer as they celebrated with the fans, taking selfies and raising the Stanley Cup skyward to deafening cheers. The team gathered at the end of the route for a rally in Point State Park and the crowd swelled on the beautiful sunny day as players took the opportunity to praise their city and its fans.
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