Stanley Cup playoffs: Kunitz sends Penguins through after epic game seven

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Kunitz's knuckling shot from outside the circle fluttered past Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending Stanley Cup champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night. The Penguins will be seeking back-to-back Stanley Cup titles when they take on the Nashville Predators in the championship series. At the start of this season, no one could have predicted that the Sens could be one win away from an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. Now here we are with the teams playing in game seven where the victor will go on to face the Nashville Predators in the NHL Championship while the loser's season comes to a crashing end.

"That's probably been my toughest decision all year long - to keep him out (of most playoff) games", Boucher said Thursday morning of Kelly, who had played only one post-season game previously after suiting up in all 82 during the regular season.

It was, perhaps, the most apt sequence Cole could've pointed to, not only to describe Kunitz, but to define the Pittsburgh Penguins' postseason run. It was that thin margin for error which made the club such an unlikely candidate to go deep in the playoffs and come just shy of its first final in 10 years.

He found a pretty compelling way to put it off for at least four more games and push his team to the brink of history in the process. Dion Phaneuf - Ottawa's blueliner had a tough game (19 for, 34 against, 35.9 CF%, 11-16 scoring chances) and was in the penalty box for Pittsburgh's second goal. While that bit of information has been circulating, no one (save for the Ottawa Sun) seems to be spending time pointing to the fact that the Senators have never won a Game 7.

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Game 7 offers the Penguins and their stars the opportunity to cement their legacy while the Senators can complete an improbable run to their sport's biggest stage.

Phil Kessel (81) celebrates with Bryan Rust (17) after Rust's goal in the second period during Game 1 of the Penguins Stanley Cup first-round series against the Blue Jackets on April 12.

Sullivan always has his team focused only on the moment in front of them. Subban has been spectacular at times during the playoffs and goaltender Pekka Rinne is playing the finest hockey of his career, helping stoke the passion of a fanbase that likes to sledgehammer beat-up cars in parking lots before games and throw catfish onto the ice during them. "So for us as players, this is what it's all about". But he was just THAT good in stopping all but Evgeny Malkin's second period goal.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh — where they lost 7-0 in Game 5 on Sunday — by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory. It was Kunitz's first goal in his past 22 playoff games. "We deserve this one all the way through".

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