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Crosby and the Penguins reign supreme

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A turnaround season for the Pittsburgh Penguins ended with Sidney Crosby once again holding the Stanley Cup.

Crosby set up Kris Letang's go-ahead goal midway through the second period and the Pittsburgh Penguins won the fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history by beating the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in game six of the final last night.

Brian Dumoulin opened the scoring with a power-play goal and Patric Hornqvist added a late empty-netter. Matt Murray made 18 saves to give the Penguins a championship seven years to the day after they beat Detroit for their third title.

The game ended when Crosby cleared the puck the length of the ice with San Jose on the power play, setting off a wild celebration.

Three nights after squandering a chance to become the first Pittsburgh team to win a title in front of the home fans in 56 years, the Penguins finished the job on the road just like they did in Minnesota (1991), Chicago (1992) and Detroit (2009) in past title runs.

The championship in Detroit was supposed to be the first of many for a team led by players such as Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But a series of concussions that led Crosby to miss almost entire season and a half, and a run of early play-off exits that included twice blowing 3-1 series leads prevented a second celebration in the Crosby era, until now.

This didn't seem like it would be a season to remember back in early December when the Penguins were the near the bottom of the standings in the Eastern Conference and Mike Johnston was fired as coach.

However, led by Mike Sullivan, Johnston's replacement, the Penguins recovered to make the play-offs as the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division.

Pittsburgh knocked off the New York Rangers in the first round, Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington in round two and then rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to beat Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference final.

The Penguins then were in control for almost the entire Cup final. They did not trail until game five at home and responded to a strong push from San Jose in the clincher to avoid a decisive seventh game.

Pittsburgh held San Jose to just one shot on goal in the first 19 minutes of the third period to preserve the one-goal lead and sealed the win with Hornqvist's empty-netter.

Logan Couture scored the lone goal for the Sharks, whose first trip to the final in their 25-year history ended two wins short of a title.

Martin Jones made 24 saves and was San Jose's best player for the series.

While the season ended in disappointment, it also was a bit of a breakthrough for Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and the rest of a franchise that had been known for play-off collapses, most notably in 2014 when the Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead in the first round to Los Angeles.

There was an electric atmosphere before the final home game of the season in San Jose with fans starting their “Let's Go Sharks!” chants well before the opening puck drop and an elaborate pregame light and video show firing up the fans.

But the Penguins jumped ahead for the fifth time in six games this series after Dainius Zubrus was sent off for tripping when Crosby's line did not allow San Jose to leave their own zone.

Dumoulin took advantage when his point shot beat Jones for a rare soft goal allowed by the Sharks' netminder.

Jones made up for it late in the period with one sequence that started with a save against Crosby on the rush and ended with a pad save that robbed Conor Sheary to keep it 1-0.

Chris Kunitz came up with the defensive play of the period when his speed on a backcheck helped thwart a breakaway chance for Joel Ward. The Sharks tied it early in the period when Couture beat Murray with a big shot for his 30th point of the postseason.

Pittsburgh answered 1:19 later when Crosby sent a pass from behind the net to Letang, who beat Jones from a sharp angle to the short side to make it 2-1.

Last night Crosby also f filled about the only hole left on his impressive list of career accomplishments.

Crosby's leadership, strong two-way play and clutch scoring helped him win his first Conn Smythe trophy as play-off MVP after leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to their second title since he arrived 11 years ago.

That trophy joins his two Olympic gold medals and two Hart Trophies, and it gives him the mythical title as best player in the world.

Team effort: Pittsburgh Penguins players and coaches pose with the Stanley Cup in San Jose (Photograph by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AP)

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Published June 13, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 13, 2016 at 8:31 am)

Crosby and the Penguins reign supreme

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