Stanley Cup Final 2017: Top Highlights, Storylines from Penguins vs. Predators

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2017

Pittsburgh Penguins players celebrate after defeating the Nashville Predators 2-0 in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Sunday, June 11, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

A 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators Sunday night clinched a second consecutive Stanley Cup title for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Predators went into Game 6 hoping to keep the series alive with their impressive play on home ice. After a scoreless battle for over 58 minutes, however, Patric Hornqvist gave the Penguins the lead with a goal off Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne's back:

A Carl Hagelin empty-netter sealed the win for Pittsburgh, making the Pens the first team to defend the title since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98.

It was a memorable battle between two elite squads, but the best team throughout the playoffs came away with the victory.

      

Top Storylines

Unlikely Hero for Pittsburgh

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Hornqvist only played just over nine minutes in Game 6, the second-fewest on the team. His only point in the previous five games of the Stanley Cup Final was an assist in the 6-0 Game 5 blowout.

However, he was the one who came through when it mattered most, scoring the go-ahead goal with 95 seconds left in the third period.

Faizal Khamisa of Sportsnet made a comparison between Hornqvist and the team's best player:

That last pick sent the Swede to the Predators, where he spent the first six years of his career. Unfortunately, his return was not a joyous one for Nashville fans, who had to watch the former player end their season.

Hornqvist has 174 regular-season goals and 19 in the playoffs, but none will be bigger than the one he scored Sunday.

          

Sidney Crosby Wins Conn Smythe Again

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 11:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presents Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins with the Conn Smythe Trophy for MVP after his teams 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bri
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Another great postseason from Sidney Crosby earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable playoff performer for the second year in a row.

Even with his repetition, the thrill of victory isn't any less sweet:

Crosby tallied eight goals and 19 assists in 24 games, eight more points than he had last postseason. Only teammate Evgeni Malkin had more points, with 28.

According to Sportsnet, he joins Mario Lemieux and Bernie Parent as the only players to win the award in back-to-back years. Sportsnet also noted he is the first since Wayne Gretzky in 1986-87 to win the Stanley Cup after leading the league in goals.

Beside the measurable production, Crosby also provides plenty of leadership as the team's captain.

"You gotta get on the train with him or you're going to get run over," general manager Jim Rutherford said during the celebrations, per Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports.

The 29-year-old has three rings and is likely headed for more if he keeps up this level of play.

             

Matt Murray's Launch to Stardom

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 11:  Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save against the Nashville Predators during the second period in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (P
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It has already been quite an interesting career for Matt Murray. The Penguins goalie technically just completed his rookie season, yet he already has two Stanley Cup titles under his belt.

He took over for the injured Marc-Andre Fleury last year and led the Penguins all the way to the championship. Murray starred for the team during the regular season, and although Fleury was the No. 1 goalie at the start of the postseason, the rookie took over once again during the Eastern Conference Final and was a difference-maker down the stretch.

Murray had three shutouts in 11 games, including the last two en route to the championship. Per ESPN Stats & Info, he is the first person to close out the Stanley Cup Final with back-to-back shutouts since 1952.

Aside from the controversial disallowed goal in the second period, Murray was nearly flawless in Game 6.

Considering he is still just 23, the sky is the limit for the goalie.