Late Bonino goal helps Pens win Stanley Cup opener

Tue May 31, 2016 1:09am EDT
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(Reuters) - Nick Bonino scored late in the third period to help the Pittsburgh Penguins recover from a mid-game meltdown and claim a 3-2 home victory in their Stanley Cup Finals opener against the San Jose Sharks on Monday.

Locked at 2-2, the game appeared destined for overtime until Bonino took a pinpoint pass from Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang and lifted a shot over the blocker of San Jose goalie Martin Jones with 2:33 remaining in the third period.

The victory was the third in a row for the Penguins after they overcame the Tampa Bay Lightning in Games Six and Seven to advance to the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals.

"It's one of those shots that wasn't my hardest shot by any means, but just found a way to kind of flip it over him," said Bonino, who has scored five winners among his 12 career playoff goals. "It was great pass from (Letang)."

Bonino was a key off-season acquisition by Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford and his performances throughout the playoffs have not been overlooked by his coach.

"I think he's a terrific player in every aspect of the game," Mike Sullivan said. "We use him in so many key situations, both offensively and defensively.

"He's brave. He blocks shots. He's a good faceoff guy. He's done so much for this team to help us get to this point. I don't know what other praise I can shower on him right now."

The Penguins continued to get contributions from players that began the season with their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Promoted forwards Bryan Rust, who left the game in the third period after taking a hit to the head, and Conor Sheary built a 2-0 lead with goals 62 seconds part in the first period.   Continued...

May 30, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA;  Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino (13) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal past San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) in the third period game one of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports