With the cup in the house, the Sharks held on for a 4-2 win over the Penguins and ensured at least one more game in the Stanley Cup Final.
Thursday night, the San Jose Sharks sent the fans of Pittsburgh home angry. More importantly though, they may have sent fans home nervous, because team teal still has a real chance at winning the Stanley Cup Final.
One game at a time – that’s the motto for teams down 3-1 in a series. Taking care of business in Game 5 with their 4-2 victory means the Sharks are just a home win away from sending the series to a Game 7.
Sharks fans couldn’t have asked for a better start. A silky Brent Burns near-side wrist-shot barely found its way between Penguins goalie Matt Murray and the goalpost just 1:04 into the game to give team teal the lead. It was Burns’ seventh goal and 23rd point of the postseason.
Less than two minutes later, Logan Couture doubled the Sharks lead on a deflection on a long-range shot off the stick of Justin Braun. It was Couture’s ninth of the playoffs and Braun’s fifth assist and seventh point of the postseason.
Fans who went to the kitchen to grab a snack, or something stronger, following the goals came back to a much different scene – a 2-2 game.
Less than two minutes after the Couture goal, Evgeni Malkin scored his sixth goal of the playoffs on the power-play and calmed his team and city’s nerves. It was a fortunate bounce off the skate of Braun, but they all count the same.
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A mere 22 seconds later, Carl Hagelin got another past Martin Jones to tie the game at two apiece. The goal came off a lackadaisical turnover by Brenden Dillon and was one Jones would like to have back.
The Penguins pushed exceptionally hard for their third goal for the remaining 14:54 of the first period, hitting three posts on the way (two on one shot from Phil Kessel) but unable to notch goal number three.
In the midst of the Penguins push, the Sharks did have one good chance and they capitalized on it. It was a beautiful play from Burns to Dillon to Couture, who finished the sequence off with a filthy pass to Melker Karlsson who converted on the point-blank look and gave the Sharks the lead, his fifth goal of the playoffs. It was assist number two and 20 for Dillon and Couture respectively.
Couture’s 29 playoff points is tops in the league and the most for a player in the playoffs since Jonathan Toews (29) and Danny Briere (30) in 2010.
The second period would turn out to be the period of Jones’ young career. The netminder, who is still in his first year as a starting goaltender, made several fantastic saves and a couple that were truly memorable. He straight up robbed Nick Bonino of a goal with 4:55 left in the period. It was another frame where the black and yellow dominated in scoring chances and San Jose went into the second intermission feeling fortunate to hold onto their one-goal lead.
Jones’ stellar showing in the crease continued in period three with a few more special stops. The Penguins would end the night with a staggering 46 shots compared to 22 for the Sharks, but none of those shots got past Jones, who finished with 44 saves.
Captain Joe Pavelski added the clincher on an empty net in the final moments, his 14th of the playoffs, sending fans inside and outside of the arena home wondering if they’d have to come back next week for a Game 7.
The Sharks weren’t perfect and they didn’t play their best game of the playoffs, but they found a way to win and there is nothing else that matters at this point of the season. They barely had enough in the tank, and now with all the pressure on Pittsburgh to not blow their series lead team teal has the chance to play loose in front of their home crowd one last time this season.
San Jose and Pittsburgh will be back in action Sunday evening when the Sharks look to force the ever exciting Game 7.