SAN JOSE, Calif. — Penguins center Nick Bonino shared his daughter’s arms-raised poses and burgeoning interest in the Penguins on Twitter in the months after her birth Jan. 5.
After the Penguins beat San Jose, 3-1, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Sunday night at SAP Center, Bonino made it clear he’ll soon add another memorable picture of Maisie Bonino to the collection.
It’ll involve a mini version of the chalice.
“I know we’re going to get one,” Bonino said. “I think that’s what you get when you win. She’ll have something for sure.”
For Bonino, only the opportunity to hold his daughter rated higher than the experience of lifting the Cup. To do both for the first time in the span of six months led him to shake his head in awe.
Bonino even put Maisie in the Cup for a picture with his wife, Lauren, on the ice.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “(Maisie) got to see a Stanley Cup get won. It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been so fun.”
Crazy and fun also proved appropriate as adjectives of the line Bonino centered in the playoffs. Flanked by Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel, Bonino offered what coach Mike Sullivan often described as a “cerebral” element to the line. He allowed the wingers to fly up ice in search of odd-man rushes.
Together, they flourished. Kessel finished with a team-high 22 points, including 10 goals, in the postseason. Bonino tied Evgeni Malkin for second in points among the Penguins with 18. Carl Hagelin followed close behind with 16.
Primanti Bros. created a sandwich for the HBK line, which played off each of the forward’s first-name initial.
Former WWE star Shawn Michaels, by no means a hockey fan but known as “HBK” and “Heartbreak Kid,” became captivated enough by the line to attend a game at Consol Energy Center.
Members of the media began to honestly question which of the Penguins’ top three lines merited top billing.
“I love playing with those two,” Bonino said of Hagelin and Kessel. “It was a pleasure to play with them. It was so fun.
“To win this Cup and have a GM like (Jim) Rutherford who traded for me, believed I can help a team win a Stanley Cup, that motivated me. I think where we are now, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
After the Penguins acquired him last summer in a deal that sent Brandon Sutter to Vancouver, Bonino initially asserted himself in the lineup with responsible, defense-first play.
Just days after Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as coach in mid-December, an early attempt at a Bonino-Kessel combo emerged.
Many more twists in Bonino’s life awaited: A child, a hand injury, the opportunity to skate with wingers that previously flanked Malkin, who missed time with an upper-body injury in March. But he joked that he helped the Penguins pivot toward their Stanley Cup path during those first couple of practices beside Kessel.
“I said I better get Phil playing the right way quick,” Bonino said. “I had a few talks with him and got him playing defensively, and then his year took off, so I’ll take all the credit for that.”
Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him ator via Twitter @BWest_Trib.