(The Sports Xchange) – Chris Kunitz scored his second goal of the game at 5:09 in double overtime to send the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals with a thrilling 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators in Game Seven of their Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday.
The Penguins, in the NHL title series for the fourth time in 10 years, will begin the defense of their 2016 crown with a home game on Monday when the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators arrive for Game One of the best-of-seven set.
Kunitz used to be a regular line mate of Sidney Crosby’s in previous years and that familiar chemistry with his captain, who got the key assist, played a major role in the series-clinching goal in front of a delirious packed home crowd.
The Senators were so focused on Crosby that the 37-year-old winger was able to set up unguarded and he turned back the clock with a pile-driver into the top left-hand corner.
“(Winger Conor Sheary) did a really good job of bringing it up the wall and walking the blue (line),” Kunitz told reporters.
“I think Sid came right off the bench. When he drives it deep, everyone (on the opposing team) gets scared and you can find that soft area. Obviously, Sid’s got great vision. He put it right there.”
It was just as comfortable for Crosby.
“I’ve definitely seen that one from him before,” Crosby said. “With the way he was holding the stick you could tell he wanted it bad. I just tried to lay it there for him.”
Pittsburgh will be trying to become the first repeat title winners since the Detroit claimed back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997-98, while Ottawa fell short of making the NHL finale for the first time since 2007.
Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray, playing on his 23rd birthday, stopped 27-of-29 Senators shots as Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson, who stopped 45-of-46 shots in the Game Six win, made 39 saves on Thursday.
“Shock, I think at the moment,”…