PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final with a 2-1 Game 7 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night.
Bryan Rust scored both goals and Matt Murray made 16 saves to help the Penguins get back to the final for the first time since 2009.
“I’ve got a lot of pride right now – pride for my team, pride for the organization, pride for the City of Pittsburgh,” Rust said. “It’s definitely something you always think about as a kid is making a big impact in a big game like this, but the big dream is still yet to be achieved.”
Fans gathered inside and outside of CONSOL Energy Center to watch the Penguins advance and they couldn’t be more excited.
“I’m excited. This is the first outside game I’ve been to. It’s great, it’s amazing,” one man said.
“Oh, it’s just totally awesome,” another man said.
“I can’t remember a sporting event much more exciting than that,” said another fan.
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The day after the win, Eastern Conference Championship apparel has been flying off the shelves across the Pittsburgh area.
Locker room tee-shirts and hats were going quickly in the Strip District, as well as over at the Pens Gear store at CONSOL Energy Center
“We’ll have locker room clinch caps and other playoff merchandise starting today and throughout the weekend in time for Game 1 on Monday night,” said Laura Bishop, the director of Retail Marketing for Aramark.
Unofficial gear is also selling out quickly. Harriett Hill from Leetsdale was picking up a few to send to her family in Kentucky.
“They’re Penguins fans, and I’ll surprise them with conference shirts. I think they’ll be excited,” she said.
The players were just as excited, but know that they are just one step closer to achieving their ultimate goal.
“Right now, we’re just happy that we won tonight and when San Jose comes in here, we focus on beating them in a seven-game series,” Carl Hagelin said.
“It feels great, obviously, but we’re not done yet. It’s obviously one step closer to our goal, but we have the biggest and hardest series here in front of us,” Patric Hornqvist said. “Today, I think we played a hell of a game in front of our own fans and they were awesome the whole night. I think when we play like that, it’s hard to beat us.”
For other guys on the roster, making a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final is a reminder of just how rare the opportunity is.
“It’s pretty unbelievable, honestly. It’s really humbling, truthfully. I’m so thankful to be back here, it’s a special group of guys, it’s a special organization. I’m just so thankful that I was able to come here and be a part of this,” Matt Cullen said. “It’s a humbling experience to be a part of this. It was 10 years ago when we won it and we had the reunion in Carolina and got to see the Cup again. It’s just exciting. Words can’t really explain how happy I am.”
Now, the Penguins sit just four wins away from winning their fourth Stanley Cup. Game 1 is Monday and the puck drops at 8 p.m.