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Kunitz's goal in second OT sends Penguins back to Stanley Cup Final

| Friday, May 26, 2017, 12:09 a.m.

An unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, Chris Kunitz might be nearing the end of his tenure with the Penguins.

On Thursday night, he made sure it wasn't over just yet.

Kunitz scored 5 minutes, 9 seconds into the second overtime to lead the Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Penguins will make their sixth appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, facing the Nashville Predators in a series that starts Monday at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins are the first team to have a chance to defend their title in the final series since the 2009 Detroit Red Wings. They're trying to become the first repeat champs since Detroit in 1998.

It was the first multiple-overtime victory on home ice in Penguins history.

"It's just a different make-up of maybe the way you feel in the locker room and how close you are as a team and how much chemistry and how much fun it is to come to the rink every day," Kunitz said. "These last two years have been quite the ride. We'll try to do it for two more weeks and try to come up with another win."

Penguins goalie Matt Murray makes a save against the Senators during the first period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena. For more images from Game 7, visit the Trib's photo gallery.

Photo by Chaz Palla

 

On the winning goal, Kunitz took a pass from long-time linemate Sidney Crosby at the top of the left faceoff circle and sent a change-up past goalie Craig Anderson.

It was Kunitz's second goal of the game.

"The puck fluttered off my stick," Kunitz said. "I don't know if it touched him or just kept going right by him. It just found its way into the net."

The Senators went the first 50-plus minutes of the game without being called for a penalty. With 8:41 to go, Dion Phaneuf was whistled for interference for knocking down Phil Kessel during a race for a puck.

Less than 30 seconds into the power play, Justin Schultz took a pass from Kessel at the top of the left circle and blasted a shot past a Kunitz screen to make it 2-1.

Schultz was playing his first game since slamming shoulder-first into the boards in Game 2 of the series.

He said his injury prevented him from getting as much on his shot as he normally would, but it was enough.

"I'm extremely happy to get the win," Schultz said. "Really tired. We'll enjoy this tonight, regroup and get ready for Nashville."

After Schultz's goal, the lead lasted less than three minutes.

With 5:19 to go, an Erik Karlsson shot from the blue line hit the post behind goalie Matt Murray and caromed to little-used winger Ryan Dzingel for a rebound goal to make it 2-2.

The second period was nearly as tense as the third. The Penguins struck first about 10 minutes in.

Schultz and Matt Cullen dug a puck off the wall in the defensive zone, springing Conor Sheary and Kunitz for a two-on-one up the right wing. Kunitz finished off a Sheary pass, ending a long goal drought.

Kunitz hadn't scored since Feb. 16, going 34 games without a goal.

"You can't say enough about a guy like that," Schultz said. "He's a leader in the room, on the ice. I don't know how many playoff games he's played, but it must be a ton. He's a big reason that we're moving on here."

The lead didn't last half a minute.

The Senators attacked up the right wing off the ensuing faceoff, with Karlsson feeding Mark Stone for a goal 20 seconds after Kunitz scored.

Replays showed Stone was barely onside on the play, dragging his back skate on the blue line as Karlsson entered the zone. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan declined to challenge the goal.

"I give so much credit to our players for that sticktoitiveness, that ability to stay the course regardless of what the noise is going on around the group," Sullivan said. "I believe it's a strength of this team."

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate left wing Chris Kunitz game winning goal to beat the Senators during the 2nd overtime period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) celebrates the game winning goal to beat the Senators during the 2nd overtime period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Chris Kunitz scores on Senators goaltender Craig Anderson during the second period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Thursday, May 25, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate left wing Chris Kunitz game winning goal to beat the Senators during the 2nd overtime period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate left wing Chris Kunitz game winning goal to beat the Senators during the 2nd overtime period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray makes a save under the Senators' Viktor Stalberg during the first overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Thursday, May 25, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Senators' Ryan Dzingel scores past Penguins goaltender Matt Murray during the third period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Thursday, May 25, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Justin Schultz celebrates his goal with Evgeni Malkin during the third period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Senators Thursday, May 25, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby celebrates Justin Schultz goal against the Senators during the third period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz celebrates his goal against the Senators during the third period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) makes a save on Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Bryan Rust (17) during the third period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) makes a save against the Penguins during the third period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (61) beats Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) during the second period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson stops Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Conor Sheary during the second period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) makes a save on Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan (9) during the second period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Ottawa Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) celebrates Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone's goal against the Penguins during the second period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray makes a save on the Senators' Zack Smith during the second period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Thursday, May 25, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Senators' Mark Stone scores on Penguins goaltender Matt Murray during the second period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Thursday, May 25, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Penguins celebrate Chris Kunitz's goal during the second period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Senators on Thursday, May 25, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Molly McClusly, 24, of Oakland cheers while watching the Penguins game outside of PPG Paints Arena on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Fans watch the Pens game against the Ottawa Senators outside of PPG Paints Arena on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Fans watch the Pens game against the Ottawa Senators outside of PPG Paints Arena on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
A Pittsburgh Police Officer watches the Pens game against the Ottawa Senators outside of PPG Paints Arena on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Fans watch the Pens game against the Ottawa Senators outside of PPG Paints Arena on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Fans watch the Pens game against the Ottawa Senators outside of PPG Paints Arena on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Scott Wilson checks the Senators' Erik Karlsson into the boards during the first period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Thursday, May 25, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray makes a save on the Senators' ZMark Stone (61) as Bobby Ryan closes in during the first period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Thursday, May 25, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) elbows Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Bryan Rust (17) on a check during the first period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) makes a save against the Senators during the first period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Senators goaltender Craig Anderson makes a save on the Penguins' Jake Guentzel during the first period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Thursday, May 25, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson corals the puck after making a save on the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin during the first period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) makes a save on Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Phil Kessel (81) during the first period in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, May, 25, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
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