It is going to take seven games to decide the winner of the Eastern Conference finals.
Thanks to the Pittsburgh Penguins' 5-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, their series is heading to a Game 7 on Thursday. For the Penguins, this game was about their stars and their young goalie coming through in a huge game. The Penguins received goals from Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby, as well as a huge third-period performance from Matt Murray in net to get the win.
Here are five takeaways from Game 6.
1. Another winning goal for Sidney Crosby. When Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had a quiet series against the Washington Capitals in the second round, there was a lot of talk about them needing to step up and get going. They have started to do just that. Malkin picked up an assist Tuesday to extend his point streak in the series to four games. Crosby scored his third goal of the series to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead late in the second period. It was a vintage Crosby goal.
Because the Lightning scored two goals in the third period, that goal ends up as the winner. For a guy who always had to hear about not having a "signature moment" in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he now has three winning goals in the series after his goal Tuesday joins his Game 2 overtime goal and his Game 3 power-play goal.
2. This game changed early in the first period. The coach's challenge system made a pretty big impact in this game very early. Only seconds after Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made a huge save on Malkin, Jonathan Drouin appeared to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead at the other end of the ice. That was until Penguins coach Mike Sullivan challenged the goal for being on an offside play.
He was right.
Because Drouin's skate (which was still behind the blue line) was off the ice as the puck crossed, the play is offside. That is still something the NHL should consider looking at as a possible change in the future, especially now that replay makes all of these plays more noticeable. But for now it remains the rule. The goal was overturned and the game remained scoreless until Kessel scored a power-play goal on a 5-on-3 later in the period.
The goal is Kessel's ninth of the playoffs and his fourth of the series. The Penguins had a two-man advantage there because of an interference penalty on Anton Stralman, and then a delay of game penalty on Victor Hedman for shooting the puck over the glass from the defensive zone. The crazy thing about the Hedman penalty is he shot the puck over the glass at the other end of the ice.
3. Going back to Matt Murray was the right move for the Penguins. After Marc-Andre Fleury was noticeable rusty in his return to the starting lineup in Game 5, the Penguins decided to go back to Murray for Game 6 and it was the absolute right call. It turned out to be a weird night for Murray because through the first two periods, he was rarely challenged. The Penguins played a nearly flawless game defensively, limiting the Lightning to 11 shots on goal. The third period would turn out to be a different story.
Murray had to be huge down the stretch as the Lightning rallied and ended up scoring a pair of goals to make it a one-goal game. Even though Murray gave up two goals, both credited to Brian Boyle, only one of them actually went in the net off a Lighting stick. The first goal bounced in off Kessel.
Murray, who will turn 22 on Wednesday, stopped 27 out of 29 shots he faced, with most of them coming in the third period.
4. Kris Letang needed a big game, and he had one. Letang is not only one of the best defensemen in the NHL, he is one of the most important players on the Penguins. He has not been great in this series, especially in the past two games. He changed that on Tuesday with a strong 24-minute performance that included this goal off the rush to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
5. Bryan Rust scored a beautiful goal to help put the game away. Once the Lightning scored their first goal in the third period, they had the look of a team that was going to eventually tie the game. They were close on a couple of opportunities. But with just a little more than two minutes to play, Bryan Rust put the game out of reach when he took a perfect pass from Chris Kunitz, skated by Victor Hedman (the second time in this series he has done that to create a goal) and beat Vasilevskiy with a beautiful move.
Nick Bonino later added an empty-net goal for the Penguins.
Rust is the type of player who has just enough skill and ability to create some great opportunities for himself, but does not have enough skill to consistently convert them into goals. This time he did.