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Penguins, Sidney Crosby Beat Predators to Win 2017 Stanley Cup Final

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2017

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 11:  Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators during the third period in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

For the second year in a row, the Pittsburgh Penguins are Stanley Cup champions. They defeated the Nashville Predators 2-0 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Sunday night in Bridgestone Arena.

It's the fifth Stanley Cup overall for the Penguins, tying them with the Edmonton Oilers for the sixth-most in NHL history. TSN's Pierre LeBrun noted why this year's triumph is so impressive:

Pierre LeBrun @PierreVLeBrun

Pittsburgh Penguins: first back to back Stanley Cup champs in the salary cap era. Unreal accomplishment in the parity filled NHL of today.

Patric Hornqvist delivered the decisive blow with 1:35 left in the third period. A shot from Justin Schultz bounced off the boards behind the goal, and Hornqvist pounced on the rebound, knocking the puck in off Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.

NHL on NBC provided a replay of the goal:

NHL on NBC @NHLonNBCSports

BLOOP in the net #StanleyCup https://t.co/2LZUOKaRBV

The fact Hornqvist, who played for the Predators during his first six years in the NHL, scored the go-ahead goal was a cruel twist of fate for Nashville.

The biggest talking point—at least among Predators fans—will be a decision by the officiating crew earlier in the game. 

Controversy reigned with a little over a minute gone in the second period. Referees waved off a goal by Colton Sissons after losing sight of the puck and blowing the whistle to stop play. NHL on NBC shared a replay of the sequence in which a whistle is audible before Sissons' shot goes in:

NHL on NBC @NHLonNBCSports

NO GOAL. The refs blew the whistle before the puck crossed the line. #StanleyCup https://t.co/Hg9etK1EAa

The social media reaction to the call was overwhelmingly negative:

Bruce Arthur @bruce_arthur

Absolute 100% blown call. They blew the whistle before Sissons poked in the puck, and there was no reason to. Murray didn't have it.

Bucci Mane @Buccigross

Horrible break for Preds. Whistle definitely blew, but it clearly shouldn't have.

Pete Blackburn @PeteBlackburn

That is an AWFUL whistle. Way to go, stripes!!

DL @davelozo

In the NFL, you can legally recover a fumble after a whistle. In the NHL, you can't score a goal after a whistle. Please hate my sport.

The performances of the respective goaltenders increased the magnitude of the officiating mistake. Rinne and Matt Murray ensured goals would come at a premium. Both goalies have experienced low moments throughout the postseason, but they more than lived up to the occasion Sunday night.

As the end of regulation loomed, USA Today's Dan Wolken couldn't help but think back to Sissons' disallowed goal:

Dan Wolken @DanWolken

It's right about here where Nashville getting robbed of a goal looms large

Shortly thereafter, Hornqvist sealed the win for Pittsburgh, and Carl Hagelin scored an empty-netter for good measure

Nashville fans will feel justifiably disappointed the referee error played such an outsized role in Game 6, but it's far from the sole reason the Predators lost the game and the series.

Ultimately, the Preds weren't good enough away from home, losing all three games in Pittsburgh by a combined score of 15-4. That gave them little margin for error inside Bridgestone Arena, and one bad break, which occurred Sunday, had the potential to be catastrophic.

The Penguins, meanwhile, accomplished something fans likely never thought they'd see again—at least under the league's salary-cap rules. And Pittsburgh won a title despite missing its best defenseman, Kris Letang, for the duration of the postseason.

Sidney Crosby added to his already impressive legacy as well, capturing his second straight Conn Smythe Trophy. Still only 29, Crosby is undoubtedly the best player in the world, and the question is how much more he can achieve over the rest of his career.

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