Conor Sheary (43) celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime with Kris Letang (58), Patric Hornqvist (72) and Brian Dumoulin (8). (Kevin Lorenzi/The Times)
The Penguins are two wins away from the Stanley Cup championship, and a cast of unlikely characters is leading them there.
They are still getting quality performances from players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang, but Matt Murray, Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary are carrying a huge load.
Sheary is the latest Wilkes-Barre/Scranton call-up to do something spectacular on the big stage that is the Stanley Cup Final, scoring the overtime-winning goal just 2:35 into the extra frame Wednesday night.
“That’s huge. That’s two goals in two games for a rookie in the Stanley Cup finals,” said Nick Bonino, who has his own overtime winner in these playoffs. “You couldn’t ask for anything more. Two great shots. He’s picking corners out there. It’s not a chip shot. He’s picking corners and it’s great to see.”
That has been the way of this run for the Penguins. They just keep winning games, and no matter how it happens, one of the three aforementioned players seems to leave his fingerprints on it.
Murray, who is probably the most recognized of the trio after starring through most of the playoffs, turned in another solid outing on Wednesday. He made 21 of 22 saves, winning his fourth overtime game on home ice.
Though he was a big reason for the victory, he reflected on how far this group has come over the past several months and the magnitude of their contributions.
"It's exciting,” Murray said. “A lot of us have been together for a long time here, starting in (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) and making our way up here. We're all pretty close friends and it's fun to be on this ride with all of them.
"And that's a huge goal from Conor. He's been doing that for us all season. So, it's fun to watch."
Rust, who became a Pittsburgh playoff legend with four goals in three games coming into Game 2, was overwhelmed earlier in the day when he saw a huge contingent of reporters waiting for him. He openly admitted that it was something he wasn’t accustomed to, but he is starting to warm up to those crowds.
It is helping him gain the same appreciation that was evident in Murray’s words about the group, which has moved up together through the organization since 2012.
“Oh man, it’s a feeling you can’t really replace," Rust said. "Just to see all of us that have gone through it all together being able to contribute at different times is great. Obviously it brings a smile to my face.
“We obviously have a lot of work left to do. We’re getting one step closer and the goal is getting closer. We can see it. We smell it. We just have to keep pushing a little bit harder.”