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Nick Bonino has always had a knack for coming up big

PITTSBURGH -- Nick Bonino has gotten used to moving in the summertime. Traded from Anaheim to Vancouver to Pittsburgh since 2014, the Penguins forward may finally be able to relax this off-season.

After coming over in a July trade, the 28-year-old Bonino has found a home on one of the postseason's top lines and probably won't have to worry about settling into another new zip code this summer.

“I enjoy the guys, enjoy the team," he said after Game 1. "Organization is first class.”

As the ‘B’ in the popular HBK line, Bonino has found a knack of being in right place at the time, an ability that goes back to a Connecticut state high school title game in 2005.

A magical 2004-05 season for Farmington High School saw Bonino, then a junior, score 68 goals, including the double overtime winner in the state title game. The Indians were down 3-0 at one point, but the future NHLer wouldn’t let his team go down in defeat. He would score twice and assist on another goal during a five-minute span before heading into overtime.

Four years later, Bonino’s magic touch continued in college.

Miami University was ready to celebrate a national championship up 3-1 against Boston University with 3:32 left in the third period. The RedHawks faithful at Verizon Center in Washington D.C. were waiting in anticipation for the clock to tick down, each second moving slower and slower. But then Bonino would win an offensive draw, which led to a Terriers goal, cutting the lead to one with one minute left.

Seventeen seconds later, there was Bonino again in the right place at the right time firing the tying goal by Miami netminder Cody Reichard, stunning everyone watching and forcing overtime, where Colby Cohen would end up scoring the title-winning goal.

Seven years later and playing for another championship, Bonino hasn't stopped producing during important situations, with his latest performance helping the Penguins take Game 1 over the San Jose Sharks.

But let’s go back three weeks to Round 2 and overtime of Game 6 with Pittsburgh looking to eliminate the Washington Capitals. The puck is in the corner on Phil Kessel’s stick in the offensive zone. There’s Bonino going right to the front of Braden Holtby’s net, so when Carl Hagelin’s shot is denied by a pad the Penguins center is ready to stuff it home to send the CONSOL Energy Center crowd into euphoria.

It’s no surprise then that as the Penguins and Sharks were tied at two with under three minutes to go in Game 1 Monday night, Bonino snuck behind an unaware Paul Martin to station himself in perfect position to corral Kris Letang’s pass from the corner and flip the puck over Martin Jones’ blocker for the winning goal.

Just look at his celebration; it's old hat for him now.

“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,” Bonino said.

He’s not a guy who’s only scored big goals for the Penguins. Bonino also has earned the confidence of his coaches while fulfilling his responsibilities on both special teams units.

“I think he's a guy that has a real high hockey IQ, sees the ice really well.  He has real good hands,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. “His awareness defensively I think, the use of his stick to take passing lanes away, it's impressive. He's brave. He blocks shots.  He's one of our better shot-blockers. 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. We think he's a terrific player.”

After going 73 games this season without a game-winning goal, Bonino now has a pair of big ones in a nine-game span. Of his 12 career playoffs goals, three have come in overtime, including a series-clincher for the Ducks in Game 6 over the Dallas Stars in 2014. 

Right place. Right time. Right mind frame.

“I think the biggest thing for me is to stay even-keeled, not change my game, whether it's game one of the season or the Stanley Cup Final,” he said. “I think that allows me to kind of stay in the moment there.

“When you get passes like I've gotten, pucks to the net like Haggy did, the pass tonight from Tanger, it makes it a whole lot easier to score those goals.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!



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