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Penguins Advance to NHL Stanley Cup Final V Predators After 2OT Win V Senators

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2017

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 25:  The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate after Chris Kunitz #14 scored the game winning goal agianst Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators in the second overtime with a score of 3 to 2 in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 25, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Chris Kunitz's goal in double overtime of Game 7 of the NHL Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday sent the Pittsburgh Penguins back to the Stanley Cup Final.

It was the second straight series with a Game 7 win for the Penguins, while Ottawa fell to 0-6 in its history of winner-take-all games.

Kunitz's goal was his second of the game after having zero in his first 13 games of the playoffs. He also added an assist in an incredible performance when it mattered the most.

NHL on NBC captured the game-winner on an assist from Sidney Crosby:

NHL on NBC @NHLonNBCSports

The defending champion Pittsburgh @Penguins​ are returning to the #StanleyCup Final! HIGHLIGHTS → https://t.co/j5wTFakfU3 https://t.co/qHbb28SmZJ

The exciting play resulted in a wide range of emotions:

Pat Forde @YahooForde

Senators finally crack. Penguins win. Wow that was amazing. What a battle of endurance, test of wills. Great efforts by both.

andrew mccutchen @TheCUTCH22

I just peed me pants, And im okay with it!!! #Pens

Pierre LeBrun @PierreVLeBrun

You're not human if you don't feel for the Ottawa Senators right now. Just gut wrenching. A team that never quit all playoff long.

Pittsburgh will attempt to defend its title against the Nashville Predators, who needed six games to knock out the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Final.

Justin Schultz thought he might have had a game-winner for the Penguins in the third period. The defenseman came through with this power-play goal in his return from an upper-body injury that kept him out the previous four games:

NHL @NHL

Ripped off the post and in. What a hockey game. #Game7 #StanleyCup https://t.co/1zcYNBxF5U

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However, the Senators did not give up, and Ryan Dzingel knocked in the equalizer with about five minutes left in regulation:

NBCSN @NBCSN

Knotted at 2 LATE in the third period- a trip to the #StanleyCup Final is on the line! 😱 GET TO NBCSN! → https://t.co/vEtkNZYtcM https://t.co/uAxyGkY1kX

Erik Karlsson was credited with his second assist of the night on that play, setting a new Senators record with 16 in a single playoffs, per NHL Public Relations.

These ended up being the last goals until Kunitz secured the win for his team in dramatic fashion.

Craig Anderson had yet another outstanding game in net for Ottawa, finishing with 39 saves. Pittsburgh counterpart Matt Murray only allowed two of the 29 shots he faced to go past him.

The close play with high intensity was a theme from the opening faceoff. Both teams came out fighting in the first period, with plenty of drama even without goals. Dan Rosen of NHL.com described the early atmosphere:

Dan Rosen @drosennhl

They just played 7:53 without a stoppage. End to end action. Crowd roaring with every play. Great stuff here in Pittsburgh so far.

It took almost 30 minutes for the first goal, then just another 20 seconds for the second. Kunitz broke the ice for Pittsburgh, but Mark Stone answered, and the game remained tied heading into the third period:

NHL on NBC @NHLonNBCSports

Back-to-back goals. 20 seconds apart. There is NOTHING like Game 7, folks! Stream → https://t.co/LOSOtr0Y83 #StanleyCup https://t.co/YWrXPYMcmJ

After some back-and-forth play at even strength, the Penguins finally got their first power play of the game and took full advantage. A screen by Kunitz allowed Schultz to fire home a shot to the right side, giving the home team the lead.

The lead was to once again prove brief, as Dzingel needed less than three minutes to make it 2-2 and send it to overtime.

Mark Stepneski of the Dallas Stars' website summed up the game from a neutral standpoint:

Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge

What's been a great game is going to get even better. Overtime.

As the game continued, however, many felt the way Le'Veon Bell did:

Le'Veon Bell @LeVeonBell

this game is slowly killing me 😩

The drama finally came to an end with the double-overtime score after 85 minutes, capping one of the most memorable battles of the year.

While the season is over for the Senators, the Penguins will try to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98 to win back-to-back titles.

The first step will be to avoid overlooking the Predators, which everyone else seems to have done this postseason. Pekka Rinne has been outstanding in net throughout the playoffs, which should create an exciting final round.

Game 1 will be Monday in Pittsburgh.

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