“I just told them to embrace the moment. It’s a great opportunity for us. These are the type of circumstances to where you have an opportunity to write your own story,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan.
“They had a certain mindset going into this tonight: ‘We’re going to leave it all out there and do everything we can to bring this back to Pittsburgh,”‘ Sullivan added. “And, certainly that’s what they did.”
Crosby assisted on Kessel’s five-on-three power-play goal in the opening period and skated around Tampa Bay defenceman Anton Stralman into the clear before sending a wrist shot between goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s legs for a 3-0 lead in the final minute of the second period.
“Everyone contributed in their own way. In a big game like this you, don’t do anything special, just do your job. I think that’s gotten us this far.”
Brian Boyle scored twice in the third period for Tampa Bay, with one of the goals bouncing off Kessel before getting past Murray, who finished with 28 saves. The second score drew the Lightning within one goal with 7:17 remaining.
Rust’s breakaway goal gave Pittsburgh breathing room and Bonino added an empty-netter to finish it off.
Kessel’s goal was his team-leading ninth of the playoffs. Crosby had the primary assist, his first point since delivering game-winners in Games 2 and 3, and Evgeni Malkin also had an assist to extend his point streak to four games after a slow start in the series.
The Lightning had an apparent goal by Jonathan Drouin waived off a little more than five minutes into the game, when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan successfully challenged that the young Tampa Bay winger was offside on the play before tapping in a rebound off Ondrej Palat’s shot that bounced off Murray’s pads.
Sullivan announced the decision to go back to Murray following Tuesday’s morning skate, with the Penguins facing elimination for the first time this post-season.
Murray started the first four games of the series. Fleury replaced him during the third period of Game 4, then made his first start in nearly two months in Game 5, which Tampa Bay won 4-3 in overtime.
“I just think it’s part of his DNA. He has a calming influence. He doesn’t get rattled if he lets a goal in. He continues to compete,” Sullivan said.
“That’s usually an attribute that takes years to acquire. And to have it at such a young age is impressive. I think one of his biggest strengths is just his ability to stay in the moment.”
Before Game 5, Fleury had not started a game since March 31, when he suffered a concussion.
Tampa Bay entered the game determined to not come out flat in Game 6 of the conference final for the second straight year.
Now, they’ll have to win on the road again to make the third Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history.
“I know we can. I’ve got confidence in this group. We believe we can do that,” Tampa Bay’s Ryan Callahan said. “We’ve had success on the road in the playoffs. We’ve had success in their building already. It’s going to be a good one.”